Nkosi to fill Pietersen’s big boots

Benedict Chanakira

Sbu Nkosi backtracks to regather a loose ball with two defenders closing in. A deft step and he almost breaches the double-hit, but he drives forward a few metres before he’s finally stopped by a third tackler.

The Sharks youngster was on debut in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge match against Griquas at Kings Park in April, and this was just a sample of the reason coach Rob du Preez had called up the 20-year-old for the Sharks’ tour of Australia a few months earlier.

In May, Nkosi made his Super Rugby debut against the Western Force. Though he was denied a try, Sbu terrorised the Australians as he demonstrated the pace, power and footwork that had made the Lions junior a stand out for the Baby Boks at the 2016 World Championships.

Known as Skisha to his teammates, Nkosi breaks the mould of the traditional South African winger, usually known for being fast and evasive. He complements those attributes with a healthy dose of size, packing 97kgs of armour onto a 1.82m frame.

While at Jeppe Boys High School, Nkosi mentored promising loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani, who has since joined the Lions’ ranks. But it’s Hacjivah who claims the credit for shaping Nkosi as a player, helping him to develop a hard edge as the two trained together to hone their craft.

The pair were renowned for their physicality as schoolboy players and they joked about not needing to learn how to pass because they could just run over everyone. It was during this time that Nkosi became known as “Lomu”, and there were glimpses of that power in last week’s win against the Stormers as the Sharks finisher fended off Ramone Samuels with ease to score an excellent try.

But that doesn’t mean he’s resting on his laurels – Nkosi is hard at work improving his defence, aerial contesting and kicking skills. He has the work ethic to improve rapidly, bringing with him to the Sharks the habit of training from the early hours of the morning to the late afternoons.

Four games into his Super Rugby career and the bulky winger boasts an emphatic return that includes three tries, 12 tackle busts and a near-perfect tackle-completion rate. The hard work is starting to pay off, but the road is long and trying.

He’s up for the challenge and, with time, Nkosi has the potential to fill the void left by JP Pietersen at the Sharks, and perhaps the Springboks.

Benedict is a sports psychology student, a rugby coach and a freelance rugby writer. Follow him on Twitter: @bchanakira2

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- Benedict Chanakira