Jake welcomes Sharks' X-factor

Wed, 05 Feb 2014 12:35
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His Japanese commitments may have prevented Ryan Kankowski from adding to his 20 Test caps, but he will be vital to the Sharks this year.

His Japanese commitments may have prevented Ryan Kankowski from adding to his 20 Test caps since 2012, but he will be a vital cog in the Sharks wheel this year.

Sharks Director of Rugby wasted no time in naming Kankowski on the bench for Friday's final Super Rugby pre-season run-out against the Lions in Johannesburg, despite the 28-year-old only returning to training in Durban from the Toyota Industries Shuttles this week.

Despite the enforced absence of Keegan Daniel, for an unspecified injury picked up in pre-season training, the Sharks will field an impressive list of loose forward at Ellis Park on Friday.

Lubabalo Mtembu, along with Springboks Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee, will be in the starting XV. Jacques Botes and Kankowski will come off the bench.

However, it is the return of Kankowski that caused the biggest stir in Durban this week and White made no secret of his admiration for the tall loose forward's special skills.

After his fall-out with former Sharks coach John Plumtree in 2013, with the latter dropping him for perceived lack of form and fitness, Kankowski looks set to again be one of the Sharks' go-to men.

White told a media briefing in Durban that is a Springbok that has "something special" about him.

"He's really quick and has a bit of X-factor," the World Cup-winning former Bok coach said.

"He's very important in terms of the way we want to play.

"I know he's come back a bit later then I would have liked, but at least he's here for the first week of the competition, which all bodes well for the future."

White was obviously pleased with the depth he has among his loose forwards.

"We've got Willem [Alberts], Tera [Mtembu] and Keegan [Daniel] who can all play No 8," the Sharks mentor said.

"I don't think it's so much who plays there, but rather the make-up of the back row and the whole forward pack.

"We have young locks, but then we have a really experienced front row and back row.

"It's not so much who plays in individual positions, but how the combinations turn up."

White, without divulging details of the injury, said Daniel is "doing well" and should be okay for the opening round of the competition - when they play the Bulls on January 15.

"What's nice is that most of the guys are coming back from rehab and injuries, the likes of SP Marais and Anton Bresler.

"With Ryan [Kankowski] also getting back [on Tuesday], if we get through this Friday's match without any injuries, then it's only really JP Pietersen [still in Japan] that won't be available for this first Super Rugby game."

Another forgotten Bok who made a surprise appearance at Sharks training this year is record-breaking wing Tonderai Chavhanga - who played the last of his four Tests against Wales in 2008.

Injuries have since curtailed the 30-year-old flyer's career, but White still rates him very highly.

"A guy like Tonderai holds the world record for scoring six tries on Test debut," he said, adding: "It doesn't matter who it was against, he still did it.

"He can play No.13, wing and fullback. So there's an opportunity for us where we have teams playing in Vodacom Cup and Super Rugby for him to add value.

"The one thing, he's come here since October, he's being doing injury rehab and working really hard. He's got absolutely no financial gain, no salary or benefits, all the risk is his.

"Once he's back on the field and playing again, then we can look at his long-term future. But he's really been a great inspiration and role-model to the younger guys showing how much he wants to play again."

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