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Sbu Nkosi © Gallo Images

Nkosi relishing Stormers challenge

You don’t have to listen to him speak to know that Sbu Nkosi is a young man who has a lot of confidence.

Those who saw the wing make his Vodacom Super Rugby debut against the Western Force a couple of weeks ago will recall how easily he adjusted to the higher level, how at home he looked in the Sharks No. 11 jersey, and how assured he appeared when the ball found its way to his muscular frame.

Nkosi is big for a South African wing, and that is a point that should elevate the former South Africa under-20 player into national consideration quite quickly, if he converts the promise he has shown in his first couple of Super Rugby matches.

With the Bulls’ Jamba Ulengo falling out of favour after a poor season so far, there is a noticeable lack of much needed size in the back three players chosen in the Springbok squad called up by national coach Allister Coetzee for the series against France.

A product of Johannesburg’s Jeppe High School for Boys, Nkosi has already made impressive progress at the Sharks. For a start, it was he who kept the experienced Sbura Sithole, who was for a long time a contender for Bok selection himself, out of the Sharks squad at the start of the season. It was a decision that surprised media observers, but coach Robert du Preez was adamant that while he rated Sithole and never doubted his work ethic, he felt that “at this stage Nkosi is one step ahead of him”.

Nkosi was a couple of steps ahead of the Western Force defenders in his debut appearance for the Sharks senior team. Unfortunately the try was disallowed because of an infringement much earlier on in the movement, but when he powered over the line in the first half it was a spectacular sight. After halftime he also inspired an attack that nearly led to a try.

He has now leapfrogged one of his boyhood heroes, Odwa Ndungane, into the Sharks starting team, a selection that has been helped by the decision to switch another of the inspirations to his early dreams of becoming a top class rugby player, Springbok Lwazi Mvovo, to fullback. The pair worked together well against the Sunwolves last weekend, with Mvovo grabbing a hat-trick of tries and also featuring in the creation of the two tries that Nkosi scored.

Getting over the chalk would have boosted the confidence of Nkosi, and he says he is looking forward to mixing it with the Stormers in what, provided he is selected, will be his first appearance in a big derby match when the Sharks host the Cape side at Kings Park on Saturday.

“I have not been thrown in at the deep end. I have been part of the Sharks squad the whole season and toured with them, so I feel ready for the challenge of a South African derby, particularly against a team that loves to attack,” said Nkosi.

“I also love to attack and so does the entire Sharks backline, which feels like it is getting younger and younger. I am ready for this challenge because Odwa (Ndungane) taught me to treat every training session like it is a game. That is what I do, and I am ready for whatever the Stormers have to throw at us.”

There is a good chance that Nkosi will be marking one of the new Springbok wings called up on Tuesday for the French series, Dillyn Leyds, and that will provide a double reason for the former Gauteng youngster to go onto the field feeling extra motivated.

Nkosi paid tribute to the role that both Mvovo and Ndungane have played so far in mentoring him. He had posters of both of them up on his wall when he was a boarder at Jeppe, so he is in every sense benefiting from being tutored by his heroes.

“My place in the Sharks team, hopefully to face the Stormers on Saturday, is because of the plan the Sharks had for me and that included the mentorship of the two guys I respectfully call the elders. How do you explain the exhilaration that goes through you when the guys who were your boyhood heroes are suddenly the ones that are advising you on how to play rugby at professional level?”

The Sharks team will be announced on Thursday and with first choice flyhalf Pat Lambie still feeling concussion symptoms, which was the reason given for his absence from the Bok squad for the French series, the backline is likely to be the same as the one that faced the Sunwolves.


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