Bok fulcrum Lukhanyo Am eager to get fighting fit in World Cup season: ‘It’s a big year’ | Sport

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Lukhanyo Am. (Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)


Lukhanyo Am. (Photo by Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images)

  • Lukhanyo Am says he feels fit, well-rested, and ready to
    take on the crucial 2023 stretch for club and country.
  • The Sharks and Springbok outside centre crucially returned
    from a knee injury last year to fuel his teams’ charge to big titles.
  • Am said the rest and the Bok-franchise alignment worked
    splendidly to keep players fit and refreshed.

Lukhanyo Am was in the definite conversation for being the best
player in the world in 2022 before his knee injury against Australia in the
Rugby Championship.

The Sharks outside centre unlocked levels of his game
previously unseen or imagined, notably in the Boks win and loss to the All
Blacks in Mbombela and Ellis Park, respectively.

He returned to the field for the first time in the middle of
December, when he came off the bench in the Champions Cup clash with Bordeaux
Bègles at the Stade Chaban-Delmas.

Even in that cameo, when he replaced Francois Venter, who also
went down with a leg injury, Am looked a cut above the rest, as the Sharks
snuck a priceless win away in France at the first time of asking.

Now that his franchise is entering the home straight in the
United Rugby Championship (URC) and Champions Cup, and the Springboks have
zeroed their focus on France’s Rugby World Cup later this year, Am has become
an increasingly important figure.

“It’s a big year. Starting with the Sharks, I want to
get as much game time as I can and get to where I need to be,” said Am
this week.

“And to also play good rugby for the Sharks, so that I
can get selected for the Springboks and be able to perform for the Boks.

“From a Boks point of view, I’ll try giving my best as
much as I can. I don’t know if I’ll start where I left off or it will take some
time to get to that point.

“But I just need to be physically ready and able and
I’ll take it from there.”

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It’s the first time Am has suffered a serious injury since
the hand injury he suffered months before the Boks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup
in Japan, which was not serious enough to threaten his participation.

A knee injury, though, had the potential to keep him out for
long and to steal the magic from his legs. None of that came to pass and Am
returned with the same spring in his step.

Despite the challenging end to 2022, Am was glad to quickly
return to the Bok fold in terms of their three-week national camp held in Cape
Town.

“It’s been a challenging time with the injury but it
was really exciting to be back on the pitch for the Sharks. Even getting back
to the Springbok setup,” he said.

“The last time I was with the boys was during the Rugby
Championship. I managed to catch up with them and with how things are and where
we want to go.

“I’m really happy that I was involved in the camp in
terms of the conditioning side of things, where I should be in terms of the
international demands, so I’m happy.”

The Sharks have made a concerted effort to rest their
Springboks, sometimes at the risk of their URC ambitions. Some, like Siya
Kolisi and Eben Etzebeth, got almost two months off from playing time while
they took care of various personal interests.

The Bok camp interrupted the break, where head coach Jacques
Nienaber put 14 players of national interest through their paces. Am said the
rest and the Bok-franchise alignment worked splendidly to keep them fit and
refreshed.

“I feel like you want players to be ready, fit and
fresh, especially in a World Cup year,” Am said.

“You don’t want guys to be underplayed. We all know the
rugby demands, they can be quite high, and you don’t want certain guys to be
overplayed, either.

“It’s going to be a long year. We don’t want guys to be
fatigued towards the end of the year. We want a slight progression each week,
so that we peak by World Cup time.

“I’ll say credit to SA Rugby and the franchises for
trying to make things work for everyone.”



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