Lukhanyo Am ready to step into Springbok captaincy role in absence of Siya Kolisi

Colin Newboult

2JMP8HX Mbombela, Nelspruit, South Africa. 6th August, 2022. Lukhanyo Am breaks wit hte ball A fiercly contested loose ball during the Rugby Championship international rugby match between South Africa and New Zealand at the Mbombela Stadium on 6 August 2020 Credit: Live News

Centre Lukhanyo Am says that he would be “honoured” should the coaches ask him to take the responsibility of South Africa captain over the next few months.

Regular skipper Siya Kolisi, who led the Springboks to the 2019 Rugby World Cup title, is currently on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury in April.

Kolisi will duly miss the Rugby Championship in July and there are doubts over his participation in the global tournament which starts in September.

On track

Springbok management allayed those concerns, however, and are adamant that he is on track to be fit for the World Cup.

Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus even suggested that he could feature in one of their warm-up matches.

There are several candidates to lead in the 31-year-old’s absence with Am among the favourites to take the role.

“Representing your country and leading your country would definitely be a massive responsibility; I would be really honoured if I was selected as captain of the side,” the Sharks centre told TimesLive.

Should Kolisi not make it, Am admits that it could have a significant impact on their title defence.

“It would definitely be a massive blow to the team because Siya is a very experienced player and captain who did it in 2019 by winning the World Cup,” he added.

“We need his experience going into this World Cup and we are hoping for the best for him, that he recovers in time so that we have him at this World Cup.”

Finding form

Despite the speculation surrounding the captaincy, Am’s primary objective is on finding his best after struggling for form since returning from injury.

“At the moment, I’m focusing more on my game and being the best I can be to give back to the team. I’ve missed out on international rugby since last August,” he said.

“For me, it’s about getting back performing at international level and if I do get the opportunity to lead the team, we’ll see when it comes.

“Long-term injuries are tough. I am not where I was before the injury. It’s an ongoing process. What I am working on now is to get match and strength fitness back.

“It will be a test when I represent the national team because it is two different game demands.

“I will use the [Springbok] camps to my advantage to prepare myself physically and mentally to be able to play to the highest standards.”

Title defence

South Africa will look to become the second country to defend their World Cup title when the tournament kicks off in September.

Instead of cowering under the weight of expectation, Am is embracing the challenge and believes that the team are in a good position.

“I wouldn’t say pressure, there is a big difference between 2019 and now but all in a good way. With the group we have now, there is a lot of experience because most players who were there in 2019 are still here,” he said.

“The challenge is that we have to defend the World Cup, but we are not the only favourites because there are teams that are in the top five of the rankings and that is going to make it a very interesting tournament.

“France at home are definitely one of the teams to beat and over the past two years Ireland have been playing amazing rugby and they are ranked number one. It is going to be an interesting World Cup, and I am excited about it.

“We can use the experience to our advantage because experience at big tournaments and in pressure games at times helps teams to push through. I think we are in the right space as a team.

“I hope we don’t lose players in terms of injuries and we go to the World Cup and peak at the right time.”

READ MORE: Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi’s injury update is a massive boost for his World Cup hopes