JOHANNESBURG – For a player who is considered to possess the X-factor, Lukhanyo Am had a fairly quiet game at Ellis Park.
But he’s keen to step it up this weekend in the second Test against England in Bloemfontein tomorrow.
The 24-year-old, who debuted at the end of last year and played in just his second Test last weekend, was somewhat overshadowed by the brilliance of debutant wings Aphiwe Dyantyi, of the Lions, and his Sharks teammate S’bu Nkosi, who scored one and two tries respectively in the 42-39 come-from-behind win. Then there’s veteran fullback Willie le Roux, who is back in the Test arena after shining for Wasps in the English Premiership for the past two years.
But the Sharks man said yesterday he is enjoying his time among all the so-called X-factor players in the Bok back division and is hoping to have more of an influence this weekend during the second Test of a three-Test series against Eddie Jones' men.
“So far, I’m enjoying it here, playing next to an exciting back-three, and having the experience of Willie there, it’s been nice,” he said. “I definitely want to get more involved, but it’s important to stick to the plan as well, and not try and do too much, which could put the team under pressure.
“At the end of the day we’re all allowed to bring our individuality to the game, but we have to follow the coach’s plan as well.”
As the outside centre Am is the man to organise the defence at the back and out wide and for 20 or so minutes in the first Test last weekend his worst nightmare seemed to have come true.
England scored three tries, exploiting a back division that had rushed up and left acres of space out wide.
While the Boks fixed the problem, the damage caused set them back and only a massive fightback allowed the Boks to turn around a 24-3 deficit into a win.
“Defensively at 13 I’m one of the decision-makers in the outside channels, and initially we were a bit tight,” explained Am yesterday about the first 20 minutes last Saturday.
“They stretched us, but once we’d adjusted and got more width it was better. It’s definitely an area we have focused on this week.”
Tomorrow’s Test promises to be another enthralling encounter between two top teams who look intent on playing a fast, open game.
Am, still a rookie at this level of the game, said Test rugby was everything and more what he expected it to be.
“It’s quite a lot more intense (than Super Rugby),” he said. “The error rate is less than at Super Rugby level, and you have to take your opportunities when they come along.”
Like many of his teammates, Am is very much an X-factor player himself and he’ll certainly be keen to make a greater impact this week, having got the one nervy Test this June under the belt.