It would be difficult to ignore the impact the Springboks’ World Cup-winners have had on their respective franchises’ Super Rugby campaigns this season, with the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Makazole Mapimpi, Frans Malherbe, Elton Jantjies and the like all seemingly reaching new levels of performance.
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Indeed, even overseas-based players like RG Snyman, Cheslin Kolbe, Damien de Allende and Cobus Reinach have hogged the headlines since that fateful Yokohama night on November 2nd.
Clearly the feel-good factor amongst South African rugby players is at an all-time high after a brief but ineffaceable stint in the doldrums. With Rassie Erasmus now firmly at the wheel, the future is looking about as bright as Trevor Nyakane’s grin.
Everything considered, though, my player of the season so far has to be Lucky Am.
The 26-year-old, appointed Sharks skipper several months ago, has always threatened to become a truly special player. On the basis of the opening rounds of Super Rugby, it may not be long before we see him realize his full potential.
Since the Test retirement of Jaque Fourie, the Boks have struggled to find a No 13 with the necessary guile to be a proper success at Test level.
Jesse Kriel came the closest to locking down the position but not many were entirely convinced of his place in the midfield. The bulky former Bulls-man isn’t the deftest of footballers.
With the dexterous Am, though, the Boks have struck gold.
In the most difficult defensive position on the field, the former Southern King’s match awareness is uncanny. His understanding and reading of the game is sublime, especially at a time when defensive strategy has never been better coached.
His silky all-round skills and cool demeanour set him apart from his compatriots and, what’s more, he’s only getting better.
Despite having debuted for the Green and Gold as recently as 2017, he is already competing with men like Jonathan Davies, Jack Goodhue and Garry Ringrose for the unofficial title of world’s best outside centre.
The upcoming Test season will be a big one for Am. The Boks will look to reclaim their Rugby Championship crown and maintain their standing as World No 1 in 2020, especially with the British & Irish Lions on the horizon.
If he can duplicate his early franchise form onto the international stage, the Boks can’t go wrong.