Centre of attention ... At his best, Springboks’ Lukhanyo Am ‘gets into any team in the world’

Springboks centre Lukhanyo Am. Picture: Wikus de Wet/AFP

Springboks centre Lukhanyo Am. Picture: Wikus de Wet/AFP

Published Oct 5, 2023


World Cup winner Lukhanyo Am will definitely come into contention for the outside centre position should the Springboks reach the playoffs after this weekend’s final World Cup group stage matches.

The Springboks face an anxious wait until Saturday evening, when Ireland and Scotland square off in a match (kick-off 9pm) that will determine the outcome of the group.

South Africa currently top Pool B with 15 points, Ireland are second (14), and Scotland (10) third.

A bunch of scenarios exist but all the Boks want is an outcome that will see them reach the next stage to defend their title.

According to Springbok assistant coach Felix Jones, Am will train over the next couple of weeks and will be considered for the playoffs if the side progresses. He arrived in Toulon yesterday and started training lightly.

“Anyone in the squad is going to put their hand up for contention. We’ll see how he rocks up and how he performs in training over the next two weeks,” Jones said yesterday.

“Lukhanyo will come in and definitely contend for a centre position.

“He’ll be considered just as much as anyone else and we’ll base a lot of it on what happens in training – and also consider what’s gone on in the games prior to this.

“Luckily for us, Lukhanyo is quite an experienced player and has been a part of the group for many years now.

“I think probably everyone will agree that when Lukhanyo is at his best, he can slot into almost any team.”

Even though Am hasn’t played any rugby over the last two months, he’s well in tune with the Bok World Cup plans.

He was part of all the alignment camps ahead of the tournament and travelled with the squad up until they left for France after demolishing the All Blacks at Twickenham in London.

And it probably won’t take him long to get up to speed with what has been happening in camp and the planning that has started for the possible quarter-final match.

The Boks will only know after the Irish-Scottish clash whom they will face if they make it through.

Jones added that they had a lot of knocks after the 49-18 win over Tonga but, other than Makazole Mapimpi, there are no serious injuries. Mapimpi suffered an orbital fracture and was replaced by Am for the rest of the tournament.

“The game on the weekend was incredibly physical. I haven’t seen a game where there were that many guys after the match that had shiners or cuts or bruises. There’s quite a lot of that but nothing of a major concern,” Jones said.

The Springboks won’t be shouting for Ireland or Scotland come Saturday but they just want to get through themselves, says Jones. “We’re just hoping we get one of the ones where we actually go through to the knockout stages.

“If you look at it on paper and you look at form and you look at Ireland being the No 1 team over the last however many Test matches now they are in a row, you would probably say that it looks like Ireland would be the favourites.

“But I’ve seen it so many times growing up in the northern hemisphere and playing all my rugby in the northern hemisphere that as soon as you write Scotland off, or a Scottish team like Glasgow or Edinburgh, that’s when they’re almost at their most dangerous.

“Scotland are in fantastic form. They’ve proven now in their last two games that they can score points as well as any attacking team. I think it’s going to be a really tight game.”