ACT Brumbies centre Ollie Sapsford is looking to step up after the departure of Irae Simone as the club weighs up its options to replace the influential inside centre.
Simone has been a cornerstone of the Brumbies' backline since making the move in 2019 with his brutal running whilst marshalling the defence.
The 27-year-old's consistency has also been a hallmark of his Brumbies tenure.
Since Super Rugby AU 2020, Simone has missed just one of the club's last 40 games, starting in 39 of them.
It leaves a significant hole to fill heading into the 2023 season with Len Ikitau locking down the other centre spot.
Sapsford remains one of the leading candidates alongside new recruit Tamati Tua and former Red Chris Feauai-Sautia.
“Last year we were quite fortunate to have the same players on the field week-in, week-out. Guys like Ollie (Sapsford) on the fringe probably didn’t get the minutes they would’ve liked so I know with the more opportunity (to play) he’s going to excel,” assistant Rob Seib told reporters.
“He’s someone who has impressed with the condition he’s come back from pre-season. He’s hitting PBs, decision-making is really sharp and he’s someone in the group that can impress if given the opportunity.”
Sapsford was largely used off the bench in 2022 but started the semi-final defeat against the Blues after Ikitau was suspended for a dangerous tackle
Despite being used largely as a winger for Hawke's Bay in the NPC, Sapsford was confident he can slot into the vacant spot as he looks to build off his maiden Super Rugby start.
"I'd be lying if I said my eyes weren't on (the 12 jersey). I was really lucky to work with ‘E’ when he was here and he taught me a lot. He’s a good bloke and had an exceptional year last year,” Sapsford believes.
“I learnt a lot from him and Len, who I’m looking forward to keep learning from, but I’d be lying if I said my eyes weren’t on it.
“It’s all about building from last year. I really enjoyed my first year here and ticked off a lot of goals I’ve been working towards…hopefully, I can keep building on last year.
“We didn’t get the result (last year) and then I went back to NZ to carry on with Mitre 10 so I actually didn’t get to reflect until I came back here in December. I was really proud (to start in the semi) of the moment. It was unfortunate what happened to Len (Ikitau) the week before but I have been waiting for my opportunity and it came.
“I was really excited and happy with how it all went but this year is another year and I just want to keep building from where we left off.”