It’s good to be back, says Lukhanyo Am after returning to Springbok squad ahead of knock-out games

Springbok centre Lukhanyo in action during a Rugby Championship match against Argentina at Ellis Park. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Springbok centre Lukhanyo in action during a Rugby Championship match against Argentina at Ellis Park. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Oct 6, 2023


Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am is back in the swing of things and enjoying being back having rejoined the squad at the Rugby World Cup as replacement for the injured Makazole Mapimpi.

Just before the Springboks squad was named in August, IOL Sport broke the news that Am, along with lock Lood de Jager and flyhalf Handre Pollard, would not be making the trip to France due to injury.

The news left many fans gutted as Am played an important role in helping the Springboks win the tournament in 2019, and had since grown into one of the best centres in world rugby.

After his name was left out of the final squad for the tournament and placed on stand-by, Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber always maintained he believed Am would rejoin the team. The door opened for Am when his close friend Mapimpi fractured his cheeck bone during last weekend’s bonus-point win over Tonga which ruled him out of the remainder of the tournament.

“It’s a good feeling to be back,” Am said after joining his teammates in France.

“It’s special to be part of this group. It was frustrating being injured and to have to follow the World Cup from home. It was as though something you love is taken away from you.

“But I’ve been working hard and I’m very fortunate to have been called up to the squad.”

Having been out of the team and not played any rugby since the warm-up game against Argentina, Am said has been working on a few things to ensure his fitness levels remain as high as possible, but he acknowledged that there is no substitute for actual time on the pitch.

“Training is obviously not the same as playing a game, but I knew it was vital to keep up to speed to be ready in case I received the call,” he continued.

“When you are on standby you have to be loaded at all times and ready, so I made sure I was switched on mentally and ensured that I was ready physically as well.

“The mental side is the most important in a situation such as that. But I’ve been cleared to play, I’m fit, and if I make the match 23 in the next match, I’ll be ready to do the job for the team.

“It's my responsibility to get back into the swing of things as quickly as possible and to be ready to slot into the team if I’m called upon to do so.”

As Springbok assistant coach Felix Jones alluded earlier this week, Am’s presence in the side gives Nienaber a selection headache for the remainder of their World Cup campaign.

In Am’s absence Jesse Kriel and Canan Moodie have thrived in the number 13 jersey, next to wrecking ball Damian de Allende.

The Springboks have a break this weekend, and should result go as expected, they could have a quarter-final date with hosts France.

IOL Sport