The awards for world player of the year do net get announced until December, however if the accolade was handed out today, there is a standout candidate in the world of rugby.
Like it so often is a year before a world cup, rugby in 2022 has so far been about change rather than continuity. The great All Blacks seems to be on a sharp decline, while Ireland are heading in the opposite direction. Heavily favored France have had little media attention and England are once again searching for an identity.
However, despite all this change, one player’s level of performance has been consistently at the very top, a player who has before gone under the radar – that player is Lukhanyo Am.
Just a quick scan over Twitter will show you how many fans regard Am as the world’s best. Type his name in and you will be greeted with thousands of tweets praising recent performances, highlight reels of offloads (some so good that they deserve their own article), and photos of his tactical awareness which has lead to some calling him the “South African Minister of Defence”.
The best rugby player in the world right now.
His name is Lukhanyo Am👌🏿🔥 pic.twitter.com/NlTyDLptUq
— Madima (@MaanoMadima) August 6, 2022
The interesting thing about Am is that during South Africa’s 2019 world cup success, he was not considered one of the stars alongside the likes of Kolisi and Kolbe. However since then Am has only improved, becoming one of the first names on the South African team sheet and feared by opposition on both sides of the ball.
His awareness as a 13 is unparalleled. Take this clip below, rather than throwing a speculative offload, Am scans the field as falling to the ground to ensure the correct pass is chosen and a try follows as a result.
On a plate 🍽️
— Springboks (@Springboks) August 10, 2022
It is clear that Am can pull of all the eye catching plays that supporters love – but he also hits hard and does the dirty work required as a centre. He is also not afraid of the darker arts of rugby…
Dark Arts by Am to prevent immediate entry by cleaner pic.twitter.com/KWaj4FIdsf
— George Murray (@murrayg9) August 6, 2022
Am was instrumental in the Springboks recent win over the All Blacks, and many pundits said he was the standout player of the day. For so often, Am let other around him take the headlines, however now he is stepping into the limelight himself and dictating the tempo and physicality of games.
What’s more is that Am is doing this on the biggest of stages against the biggest teams in the world.
A lot can change in half a year, and there are still more than a few world class talents that could take the award come December, however one has to think if Am carries on the way he is, the South African centre is in with more than a good shout.