After falling behind Zane Kirchner and Pat Lambie in the pecking order, Aplon has been recalled by coach Heyneke Meyer for a 17th cap in tomorrow’s third England Test in the friendly, but yesterday very windy, city.
Meyer said he has always rated Aplon.
“He is a player who can provide the magic from the back and while we have lost two fullbacks, Gio brings the X factor,” assured Meyer.
Aplon admitted he was disappointed when he was overlooked for the first Test squad, because he wanted to be involved and play for the Boks, he said this week.
“I was looking at the guys playing the first two Tests and told myself I wanted to be there,” he said.
“But every time you get the opportunity, you have to make it count. It’s such a honour and all you really want to do is make your country proud.”
It all changed when Kirchner injured his knee in the first Test and Lambie his ankle in the second, while Frans Steyn will tie the knot this weekend.
“I wasn’t involved in the first two Tests, but I was called up to the squad prior to the second Test, so I have been able to spend time with the squad,” said Aplon.
“And while I wasn’t involved, I just kept on working, wanting to get better, pushing myself, because above all else, you want to play for the Boks.”
Long underestimated because of his size, Aplon is a lightning fast runner, able to change angles at will, and his defence and ability under the high ball have been rock solid.
“Coach Heyneke has talked to us about what got us in the team and while we are required to remain structured within the preset game plan, it doesn’t restrict exciting running, while not being selfish and looking for those support runners,” Aplon said.
“When the coach held all his planning camps and when he spent time with the Stormers by coming down to the Cape he spoke about not wanting to lose special talent which could benefit the national side,” he added yesterday.
And tomorrow Aplon will also have his provincial and Super Rugby captain Jean de Villiers as his national leader.
“The thing about Jean is that he is not only a great captain, but also an excellent person and human being,” the fullback-cum- wing said.
“For me it’s a case of hearing the same voice and getting used to the same leadership, and I know his style.
“He is a quality captain and has a real feel for the game. Whether it’s for the Stormers or the Boks, he brings the whole package, on and off the field.”