Am gives Bok attack different dynamic

Lukhanyo Am’s silky touches may be taken to another level under the watch of new Springbok attack coach Tony Brown. Photo: AFP

Lukhanyo Am’s silky touches may be taken to another level under the watch of new Springbok attack coach Tony Brown. Photo: AFP

Published Jun 26, 2024


The return of Lukhanyo Am and Cheslin Kolbe throws up a number of interesting selection options for Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus for the two-Test series against Ireland.

The two World Cup winners were officially welcomed back to the Boks yesterday as Erasmus named a 39-man squad for the Ireland Tests on July 6 (Pretoria) and July 13 (Durban) and the Portugal clash on July 20 in Bloemfontein – although an extra 14-member standby group was also named to get ready for the Portuguese.

Normally Am and Kolbe would be first-choice selections without hesitation at outside centre and right wing, respectively, but that is not necessarily the case at the moment.

The Sharks No 13 has been out of action since mid-May with shoulder and rib injuries, which forced him to miss the Challenge Cup final triumph over Gloucester in London on May 24, as well as last week’s 41-13 win over Wales at Twickenham.

Am and Damian de Allende have been the mainstays of the Bok midfield for a number of years, but after Am missed the build-up to last year’s Rugby World Cup due to injury, Jesse Kriel stepped in and produced a number of top-class performances in the Bok journey to a fourth Webb Ellis Cup.

Kriel was again his busy self against the Welsh last Saturday, scoring the first try and looking for work around the field. He was well rested after the Japanese season was completed a few weeks ago, and is in his usual excellent physical shape.

Am regained some of the form that seemed to elude him last year as the Sharks focused on their Challenge Cup campaign after a horrendous United Rugby Championship season, and makes the Bok backline tick on attack and defence.

His silky touches certainly bring a different dynamic to the South Africans, and working with a skills guru such as new Bok attack coach Tony Brown could elevate his game even further.

Kolbe’s selection is a bit easier as Canan Moodie and Damian Willemse are two of the eight players ruled out of the Irish series, with Willie le Roux likely to slot in at No 15 and Kurt-Lee Arendse at No 11.

But the former Stormers, Toulon and Toulouse star – now with Suntory Sungoliath in Japan – sustained a knee injury towards the end of his club season that ruled him out of the Wales Test.

Edwill van der Merwe grabbed a try and was the Player of the Match on debut at Twickenham, Makazole Mapimpi was full of running and Aphelele Fassi enjoyed his finest Test outing as well, so they are viable options at wing if Erasmus feels that Kolbe isn’t as sharp as necessary to take on Ireland.

Among the forwards, the inclusion of Bulls hookers Johan Grobbelaar and Jan-Hendrik Wessels and the omission of their teammates Akker van der Merwe, Ruan Nortjé, Elrigh Louw and Wilco Louw were the most eye-catching.

Sharks No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, Stormers flank Ben-Jason Dixon, Bath tighthead Thomas du Toit and Racing 92 prop Trevor Nyakane were preferred.

Springbok Squad

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi, Ben-Jason Dixon, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Thomas du Toit, Eben Etzebeth. Johan Grobbelaar, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Evan Roos, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Gerhard Steenekamp, Marco van Staden, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Jasper Wiese; Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, André Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Morné van den Berg, Edwill van der Merwe, Grant Williams.

Players on Standby – Forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez, Joseph Dweba, Neethling Fouché, Mpilo Gumede, Elrigh Louw, Wilco Louw, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ruben van Heerden, André-Hugo Venter; Backs: Suleiman Hartzenberg, Jordan Hendrikse, Ethan Hooker, Quan Horn, Siya Masuku.

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