Lukhanyo Am did not transfer his Super Rugby form to his Test starts against England, but the comfort of playing with his Sharks midfield partner Andre Esterhuizen could make for a very different Am in the Rugby Championship, writes JUANDRE JOUBERT.
Rassie Erasmus’ confidence in preferring Am to Jesse Kriel for the England series and also for the Rugby Championship first-round match against Argentina is another reason I expect to see him deliver on his home ground in Durban.
I am a big Am fan but I thought Jesse was very good as a substitute against England in the second Test. I also thought he was one of the better backs in the third-Test defeat where he started instead of Am.
When speaking with former Springbok centre De Wet Barry, he felt Am’s inexperience as a defensive organiser was the reason England so easily stretched South Africa in the first two Tests. Barry, who played 38 Tests for the Springboks, thought that Am was too bunched and indecisive in ensuring the backs’ structured line speed. It was something he said would be fixed with practice and with Am understanding his role as the leader of the defensive arrangement. He believes Rassie’s main focus would be on improving Am’s organisational skills.
The coach has picked him, and I can only assume he feels the necessary improvement has been achieved.
The Boks have not had a midfield defensive general since Jaque Fourie but I believe Am has the potential to grow into a No 13 who has the necessary organisational brain and calm.
Kriel has greater pace and acceleration and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the starting option against the All Blacks, but Am is preferred against Argentina and Australia. It looks like Rassie is developing two midfield combinations in Damian de Allende and Jessie Kriel and in Esterhuizen and Am.
There is always the prospect of Frans Steyn being among the midfielders for next year’s World Cup. There is also a lot of talk that Handre Pollard can be used at No 12. But this Test will mean that Rassie now has played all four of his centre options in pairs, with Andre and Jesse against Wales, Damian and Lukhanyo against England, Damian and Jesse against England, and also Andre and Jesse against England.
What I like about Am’s game is his rugby IQ and his ability to create something out of nothing. He looks for space to run into, and also uses his strength when there is no space.
I am expecting a big game from the 24-year-old in Durban.
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images
You may also like