Bongi Mbonambi has been a key figure in the rampant Springbok pack that has spearheaded their hold on the No 1 ranking in world rugby, and Sharks coach Sean Everitt says the hooker is raring to go for his new team, his presence rubbing off on the rest of the squad.
Mbonambi will play his first game for the Sharks since leaving the Stormers in the rousing United Rugby Championship clash with the Bulls on Friday night at Kings Park and the veteran of 48 Tests has been roaring out encouragement to his team-mates all week .
“Bongi has a lot of experience and he sets a really good example,” Everitt said on Thursday. “He was fully prepared when he came to training and hit the ground running.
“As an all-round hooker, he’s one of the best in the world and certainly brings a competitive edge to our team. He really motivates and encourages the youngsters.
“Our scrums and lineouts have gone well this week and Bongi brings a lot of confidence which rubs off on the others, so he adds a lot of value,” Everitt said.
Although the frustration of having so little control over the rugby calendar is very real for Everitt, he has been a happy man this week with his Springboks back and a small crowd allowed to support the KwaZulu-Natal team at Kings Park on Friday night.
“A lot of preparation goes into games, so it has been frustrating to have all those cancellations, but we control what we can control and we are just happy to be playing.
“What is even more exciting is that spectators are going to be able to watch, it’s the first crowd we will have at Kings Park in a very long time.
“I was very confident that our Springboks would play this week too, especially after last week’s match was postponed, and we are very happy to have them. We’ve picked a formidable team, even though not all of our strongest side are available,” Everitt said.
Among the other key performers on Friday night will be Siya Kolisi, who Everitt described as “probably the form loose forward in world rugby at the moment”, and Lukhanyo Am.
Am has exuded immense composure and skill at outside centre for the Springboks this year, but he will be playing at inside centre against the Bulls. Everitt believes the captain will display some of his many other qualities.
“Lukhanyo is playing at 12 because we believe Jeremy Ward plays his best rugby at 13. Lukhanyo did a really good job for us in the 2017 Currie Cup at inside centre, he excelled in terms of his playmaking ability and he can still lead the defence from 12. He will also be alongside a young flyhalf in Boeta Chamberlain,” Everitt said.