In-form Lukhanyo Am will be a key danger man for the Sharks in Saturday’s clash against the Stormers at Kings Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
When SA Rugby magazine caught up with the Sharks centre towards the end of 2018, he spoke of his deep-rooted desire to get back into action after missing a large chunk of last year due to a fractured arm.
‘I was hoping to recover in time for the end-of-year tour, but unfortunately that didn’t work out,’ he reflected. ‘But by then, I was already looking at things with a different point of view and really just starting to focus on getting myself in the best possible shape for 2019, because I know it’s going to be a really big year.’
With these comments in mind, it should come as no real surprise to see that Am has hit the ground running, with the 25-year-old producing two industrious performances as the Sharks claimed back-to-back bonus-point wins to start the season.
Am is one of those players who appears to have a natural feel for the game, while boasting an innate ability to make timely interventions in the big moments. Taking a closer look, it’s notable that he has effectively contributed with four try assists over the first two rounds of action.
In the first example below from week one, Am displayed all his class as he straightened the line, turned Sunwolves fullback Gerhard van den Heever inside-out, before sending a perfectly weighted pass to S’bu Nkosi, who darted away to score.
Later in the same game, Am repeated the dose, again holding the ball for just long enough to suck in two defenders and then send Makazole Mapimpi in for a try with a no-look pass.
This past Saturday, Am was once again a standout performer against the Blues, racking up 57m from seven carries, while beating three defenders and making six tackles.
As the footage shows below, he also perfectly summed up the situation to set up the Sharks’ first try. Receiving the ball near the halfway line, Am spotted space behind the defenders and put in a perfectly weighted grubber kick followed up by Mapimpi. The ball is kicked ahead, and the Sharks finish off a superb try.
Am’s influence in the Sharks’ crucial bonus-point try should also not be overlooked. On this occasion, as seen below, Am makes a pinpoint defensive read to complete a massive tackle on Blues flyhalf Otere Black as he wraps around. The ball squirts out and Curwin Bosch intercepts to score.
It’s these examples that aptly demonstrate just how important Am is to the Sharks’ cause, with his ability to make some key plays on both attack and defence, while his work rate is top class.
Alongside powerful inside centre André Esterhuizen, the Sharks do boast a highly-effective midfield combination, and there is no doubt that the Stormers will recognise Am as a key danger man ahead of Saturday’s derby.
Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix