It should be a straightforward choice, not just because nobody else is busting down the door in that position, but because Lukhanyo Am is so consistent.
CAPE TOWN – Over the next few weeks, our rugby writers will be debating their Springbok choices from No.15 to No.1 for the upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions. Today’s installment: No.13 (outside centre).
Mike Greenaway’s choice: Lukhanyo Am
Unless he is struck down by injury, the Sharks captain will be the outside centre in the Springbok backline to play the Lions. It should be a straightforward choice, not just because nobody else is busting down the door in that position, but because Am is so consistent.
He rarely has an off day and can be relied on to deliver every game. I am viewing Cornal Hendricks as a 12, and I am not discounting Jesse Kriel’s reportedly good form in Japan, while I think Ruhan Nel has had an impressive Rainbow Cup for the Stormers and Lions 13 Wandesile Simelane is one for the future. For now, though, the 27-year-old Am is in his prime and an automatic choice.
Ashfak Mohamed’s choice: Lukhanyo Am
Sharks captain Am has maintained the form that made him a stalwart of the Springboks’ World Cup-winning effort. The Sharks backline hasn’t always functioned smoothly, but when they have had a go with ballin-hand, Am has been an integral part of it. He is a strong defender, has time on the ball to make decisions, and is a classy distributor too.
He arguably lacks the pace of a Jaque Fourie, Adrian Jacobs or Andre Snyman from the past, so I have said before, he may be better suited to inside centre. At the moment, though, there’s no one better than him at No.13. Lions centre Wandisile Simelane has been inconsistent, so Japan-based Jesse Kriel is still my back-up to Am.
Wynona Louw’s choice: Lukhanyo Am
On the domestic front, he hasn’t been as eye-catching as someone like Wandisile Simelane, but we all know what the Sharks skipper can do. He has been going about his business in a quiet yet efficient way, and you don’t have to tap too far back into the archives to get a reminder of his abilities.
There’s that vision, which he has used many times to spot and exploit gaps that sometimes only he can see. Then there’s that seemingly innate ability to pick superb running lines and how easily he can make the switch between being a finisher and a creator. And how about that physicality? All in all, he’s the one.
Morgan Bolton’s choice: Lukhanyo Am
The No.13 jersey is arguably one of the positions where Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have limited options. Am holds the position, but he hasn’t been at his best during the Rainbow Cup.
If the Boks are to bank on experience for the British & Irish Lions tour, then he certainly should be in the starting XV. Meanwhile, the untested Wandisile Simelane is his understudy and you’d expect the Lions centre to at least have an opportunity against Georgia to show off his wares.
And then there is Jesse Kriel, who hasn’t played many physically demanding matches lately, but has nevertheless been selected for the Bok alignment camp this week. He would be my second choice, as he covers centre, wing and fullback.