Lukhanyo Am as has slowly solidified his place as South Africa’s best outside centre, and in 2020 is making a claim for one of the best outside centres in World Rugby.
Am has proven to have an eye unlike any other centre, at least in the South African Super Rugby conference. While his impact was a lot more subtle towards the start of his career, having played for a brilliant World Cup winning Springbok side last year, and currently leading the table topping Sharks, his presence is becoming more and more evident. He is thriving off the quality of player around him, while simultaneously seeming to improve the quality of those players.
Captaining the Sharks, his commanding of the defensive system this season is unmatched, organizing a high pressure, high conversion rush defence approach, but also communicating effectively with his wings, as is evident by their ability to both push and spread on defence. Aside from his communication and organization, Am has been successful in 29 of his 32 tackle attempts so far this season, leaving him with a 91% tackle success rate after 6 rounds of Super Rugby and has also forced 3 turnovers.
He has shown too, an exceptional eye for the intercept, which has been integral in the Sharks ability to turn the flow of play and on attack has been consistent in linking well and creating opportunities as he’s directly assisted in four of the Sharks tries and has scored one himself. He’s also racked up 177 running meters in his 19 runs and beaten seven defenders.
While Am’s presence extends beyond statistics in terms of the authority he brings to the defensive and attacking structures of his side, the statistics also tell a story of an incredibly well rounded performer. He has been equally effective in all the measurable areas of his game, yet the performance of the players around him speak to his immeasurable effect. Lukhanyo Am came into his own in helping the Springboks to World Cup glory, and has ridden that wave of form into the 2020 season. It’s exciting to see what he will be able to do when he fills the number 13 jersey for the Springboks again this year.