Spies, Kanko to revive Bok careers?

2015-02-26 00:00

TWO seemingly forgotten Springbok eighthmen have a chance to rejuvenate their Test careers when the Bulls and Sharks meet at Loftus on Saturday.

Both Bulls captain Pierre Spies and Sharks loosie Ryan Kankowski have been out of the Bok fold for a number of years. Spies last donned the green and gold in June 2013, while Kankowski played his last Test in 2012.

Tera Mtembu packed down at the back of the Sharks scrum for the past two weeks but looks set to sit out on Saturday through injury — handing Kankowski the tough task of returning to the Sharks mix away from home against a reeling Bulls outfit.

The tall, rangy Kankowski needs no introduction to Sharks fans. His nimble feet and impressive skill set have been missed in recent years while he sought out the favourable Yen in Japan. He has had two weeks to acclimatise to the new Sharks setup and the testing Durban conditions — a far cry from his home away from home with Japanese club Toyota Industries Shuttles in Kariya City, some 300 kilometres South-West of Tokyo.

“It’s more the heat that’s caught up with me — coming from snow to 40 degree heat. It’s been good though. Everyone is extremely friendly and happy, and they’ve made it easy for me,” Kankowski said earlier in the week. Having been between Japan and Durban over the past three years, Kankowski is well placed to give his thoughts on how the setup has changed in Durban.

Looking towards his first taste of Super Rugby this year, the number 8 was tentative about what to expect.

“We’ll find out this weekend. It’s been good and fortunately the last six weeks I’ve basically had a pre-season that side so I feel ready, but I don’t know how match-fit I’ll be on the Highveld. I’m really looking forward to it,” he said.

He will be up against Spies who has finally returned from a long term bicep injury. With just three games under his belt, two of which have been off the bench (against Saracens and Bulls), the athletic Bulls eighthman is still catching up with top-flight rugby.

“Spies has been a brilliant player for them for a really long time. Everyone knows what he can do and he does as well. I think he will definitely want to bring his best so they can start winning,” said Kankowski.

While their head to head will be enticing, Kankowski believes his side have to continue with the lift in intensity they showed in their win over the Lions last weekend.

But just how big a threat will a hurting Bulls side pose coming off two losses at home?

“As they say, you can’t win Super Rugby in the beginning but you can lose it. I think they’ll know, being at home, that they need to start winning. Especially against South African teams. If you lose the pool its quite tough to come back from that.”

Aside from Saturday’s derby, Kankowski is looking to settle into Super Rugby before he considers a Springbok comeback. “I’m focusing on ­Super Rugby at the moment. I just want to play some good rugby and if it leads to the Boks then so be it. At the moment it’s all about being back with the boys, having a good season and taking it from there.”

He has his work cut out as the Sharks have no shortage of quality loose forwards.

“Competition is always a good thing. We’ve got Renaldo and Marcell playing brilliantly at the moment. ­Tera, Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and a couple of youngsters coming through in the Du Preez brothers, so there are plenty of brilliant players and it raises everyone’s game.”

Alberts has returned to full training and is likely to make his way into the side in the next two weeks.

Kickoff for the Sharks against the Bulls is at 5.05 pm.

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