Sbu Nkosi is a weapon, and he is a weapon that remains relatively unused in the Springbok arsenal due to the lucky fact (for South Africans) that the best backline player in the world plies his trade in the same position. If domestic commitments rule Cheslin Kolbe unavailable for selection against Georgia in South Africa’s two warm up tests, there should be no debate as to who slots in at number 14, writes Oliver Keohane
Scoring a brace on debut against England in South Africa in 2018, and helping the Springboks to their first series victory under Rassie Erasmus, Nkosi has gone on start all 11 of his subsequent test matches. In just that short amount of international playing time, he has already scored eight tries, scoring against every side he has played against so far, bar Scotland and Namibia. These sides include England, Argentina, France, Australia and Canada. Nkosi knows how to do what a good winger should: Score tries.
But the style that characterises these tries are such a joy to watch when Nkosi is wearing number 14 for South Africa. Finishing is an underrated art, and Nkosi never falters in that area. But around the field he also always seems to break the first line of defence – and in varying ways. He’s got a mean step and and is explosively quick off the mark, but he also has a powerful leg drive and a 6ft, 97 kilogram frame which he is unafraid to use in contact.
Nkosi is electric, and if Cheslin Kolbe is to be unavailable in the first two tests against Georgia due to domestic commitments in France and finishing off his Top 14 campaign with Toulouse, his Sharks counterpart is the obvious replacement. He was the obvious replacement in South Africa’s Rugby World Cup semi-final (arguably their toughest knockout fixture) and nearly two years on he remains so.
Nkosi’s acuity under the high ball and blend of every athletic component that you would include in making the model winger, give him the X-Factor to do justice to the absence of a player like Kolbe. He is a different player to Kolbe, but he is an extremely good player, who in all his appearances for the Springboks has made his mark felt.
There is a unique aggression and intent that compliment Nkosi’s capabilities, and his hunger for contest is apparent every time he gets his hands on the ball. Nkosi is one of my favourite South African players in recent years, and while I can’t complain about the reasons that he has not been the starting right winger, I would be comfortable and confident in the Springboks chances against any team if he stepped in to take up the role.
Nkosi is a special talent, and to just watch why I say this does more justice to him than to read about and reflect on what his skillsets may be.
WATCH: Nkosi’s highlights
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