Jake set to bring Ryan in

2014-01-23 00:00

Sharks rugby

THERE is a strong suggestion that Ryan Kankowski, the rangy former Springbok number eight who was discarded by the Sharks last year, will be back in their Super Rugby line-up this season.

Kankowski has spent the last two years South African summers playing club rugby in Japan and he suffered during the 2013 Super Rugby competition when Sharks coach John Plumtree dropped him from his squad.

Plumtree said that Kankowski was not physically and mentally up to the challenges of Super Rugby after he arrived back in Durban from Japan last February.

“Ryan’s not in good form,” Plumtree said after the first few rounds of competition. “He’s still feeling the effects of the Japanese season. Mentally he’s stale. It’s just not working and it’s alarming because he’s one of our better players.”

Sharks coach Jake White has already indicated that the door is wide open to Kankowski when he returns to Durban early next month. Indeed, this is likely to have been one of the reasons why White named Bismarck du Plessis as the new captain ahead of Keegan Daniel.

Daniel, in spite of patchy form, was the Sharks’ regular captain and number eight during both the Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions last year but White has kept his backrow options open this season by demoting him from the leadership role.

White says he has been in weekly contact with Kankowski, no doubt checking on his form and fitness. “The best case scenario is that we will get Kanko back at the beginning of February,” said White. “If not, he will be back in the week of the Bulls game [February 15], which isn’t ideal.”

Kankowski, in spite of falling out of favour last year, still surprisingly renewed his contract with the Sharks, perhaps because he knew there was to be a change in the coaching staff at King’s Park in 2014.

Fit and in form, the former Springbok backrower is a dynamic attacking player while, at 1,93 metres, he is a valuable jumper at the tail of the lineout.

The Sharks left Johannesburg last night bound for London where they play Saracens in the first pre-season friendly on Saturday.

Captain Du Plessis said the Sharks faced a tough baptism against the leading team in England.

“They have been the form side in the English Premiership for the last few years. It’s midway through their season so it’s going to be tough for us, but we are looking forward to it. We want to test some new combinations and tick a few boxes,” he said.

Du Plessis said that the Sharks would also be fielding a strong side on Saturday and were not just regarding the outing as a low-key warm-up to the season.

“We also have some good backs and strong forwards and we are approaching this as the first big game of our season.

“We are planning the season around different segments according to the way our season is structured. In the first segment we play two games [friendlies against the Saracens and Lions on February 7] before a week off. We then play another four [Super Rugby] games before our first bye.”

SuperSport will screen Saturday’s match on CSN, SS1 and SHD from 4.15 pm.

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