Gary Teichmann believes red hot Sharks eighthman Ryan Kankowski can make his biggest impact off the bench for the Springboks.
Teichmann, a former Springbok captain and Sharks eighthman, was unreserved in his praise of Kankowski, who has been outstanding in the Super 14 to date. His intercept try against the Highlanders shifted momentum in his side’s favour. The Sharks have relied heavily on these moments of brilliance from the 22-year-old to galvanise them in flat periods.
Kankowski debuted for the Springboks in the year-end Test against Wales in 2007 and his current form certainly warrants inclusion in Peter de Villiers’ first squad, due to be named at the conclusion of the Super 14.
However, there will be no easy passage to Test rugby for Kankowski, who will go head to head with in-form Bulls eighthman, Pierre Spies. Spies only recently returned from injury after an eight-month illness layoff. However, such was his performance in his return match against the Blues in Round 7 that it prompted legendary All Black turned commentator, Murray Mexted, to wonder aloud whether ‘the kid has grown an extra lung in his time out’.
‘Ryan has been outstanding and has been one of the few players in the [Sharks] side to make a big impact this season,’ Teichmann told keo.co.za.
‘His primary threat has been in general play where he’s broken the line on numerous occasions and that’s something that’s been a rarity for the Sharks. At this stage not even New Zealand has an eighthman who has been quite as dynamic as him.’
‘Even so, I think Spies probably still has the inside lane in terms of [Springbok] selection because he has experience at Test level, and also given the composition of the back row De Villiers is likely to go with, he [Spies] will probably be his man.’
‘But depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition, the two of them could be interchanged. Spies wouldn’t be out of place at blindside flank either in which case we could possibly field both of them. We’re blessed with so many quality options in the loose forwards.’
‘But I think Ryan will probably be used to make an impact off the bench, which is not a terrible thing. Not many countries can boast an impact player of Ryan’s quality.’
Asked whether Kankowski was the ideal eighthman under the ELVs – where his pace, ball skills and ability to read the game is invaluable – Teichmann agreed conditionally.
‘It depends what the composition of the back row is,’ he said. ‘When you have someone playing tighter allowing him to play a looser role then he certainly is the ultimate eighthman with the ELVs in place.’
Teichmann attributes a large part of Kankowski’s success to forward coach John Plumtree’s influence. He pointed to the New Zealander’s philosophies about attacking space and looking to offload, rather than simply trying to smash into the defender and going to ground.
‘Mentally New Zealanders are very strong,’ he added. ‘Your second season is always more difficult than the first because the opposition have had an opportunity to analyse your strengths and weaknesses. But John would have helped Ryan make the adjustment mentally and tactically which is massive factor in what looked a relatively easy transition between his rookie year and his second season.’
‘He’s an unbelievable talent and if managed correctly he could go on to be a player that dominates on the Test stage.’
By Ryan Vrede