United Rugby Championship

Sharks' bold call of Lukhanyo Am at 12 could set tongues wagging

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Lukhanyo Am. (Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Lukhanyo Am. (Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
  • Sharks fans will be licking their lips at seeing the recognised world's best No 13 Lukhanyo Am playing inside centre against the Bulls.
  • Am will partner Jeremy Ward in midfield in one of Sean Everitt's brow-raising selections for Friday night's URC derby.
  • The Sharks also welcome World Cup-winning hooker Bongi Mbonambi into their pack for the first time.

Rugby fans who've seen Springbok Lukhanyo Am dabble at inside centre might feel excited at the prospect of seeing him don the No 12 jersey once more when the Sharks face the Bulls at Kings Park on Friday.

As things stand, the United Rugby Championship (URC) derby game will be played in front of 2 000 fans who could be treated to the best of what SA's two premier franchises have to offer.

Am playing in a more offensive first centre role is one of the big drawcards of a tantalising bill that sees Bok captain Siya Kolisi and his fellow SA internationals Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi start.

READ | Sharks load starting XV with returning Springboks for Bulls battle

The Sharks also welcome World Cup-winning hooker Bongi Mbonambi into their pack for their first time since his switch from Cape Town to Durban this year.

But all eyes will be on the recognised best outside centre in the world turning out at inside centre, a position he excelled in as a fledgling Border Bulldogs player before.

Am has evolved his role in green and gold from a defensive mastermind to upping the revs on attack, leading to his try for the SA 'A' team getting nominated for World Rugby's Men's Try of the Year.

"We felt that Jeremy Ward has played his best rugby at 13," Sean Everitt said upon announcing his matchday 23.

"I have coached Lukhanyo before, and he did a very good job for us in the Currie Cup in 2017 at inside centre, and I'd just like to have a look at that combination.

"It's great that we can give him that opportunity at 12 alongside a young flyhalf (Chamberlain).

"He (Am) does bring playmaking ability into that position, and he leads the defence in the team.

"It's great that he can lead it from inside centre."

Although they are missing Ox Nche, Aphelele Fassi, Yaw Penxe, Grant Williams and Curwin Bosch, all for unspecified reasons, the Sharks still managed to put together a strong team for the Bulls clash (19:00 kick-off).

The only slight surprise was seeing rookie flank Jeandre Labuschagne rub shoulders with Kolisi and Phepsi Buthelezi in the back row ahead of Henco Venter, who has captained the Sharks on odd occasions.

"We've picked a formidable team this week, although not all our strongest players are available," said Everitt.

"If you look at our loose trio, Jeandre Labuschagne comes in at blindside flank. We rate him really highly at the Sharks.

"Unfortunately, he didn't get a lot of game time this year due to unforeseen circumstances but we sent him to the Cheetahs and he certainly displayed the form we were looking for.

"He brings a different dimension to the loose trio.

"Siya Kolisi is probably the form loose-forward in the world at the moment, so it's great that we could select him at openside flank.

"Phepsi completes a really good loose trio."



15 Anthony Volmink, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, 7 Jeandre Labuschagne, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ntuthuko Mchunu

Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Reniel Hugo, 20 Henco Venter, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Tito Bonilla, 23 Werner Kok


15 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 David Kriel, 12 Cornal Hendricks, 11 Richard Kriel, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Elrigh Louw, 7 Arno Botha, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Ruan Nortje, 4 Walt Steenkamp, 3 Robert Hunt, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Gerhard SteenkampSubstitutes: 16 Johan Grobbelaar, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 Jacques du Plessis, 20 Sintu Manjezi, 21 Zak Burger, 22 Chris Smith, 23 Harold Vorster

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