Once tagged ‘Lomu’ after the All Black great, Sharks’ young gun Sibusiso Nkosi prepares to light up Hong Kong’s Natixis Cup
The 22-year-old craves a Springbok cap and hopes to kick-start a big season against Racing 92 at Aberdeen on Saturday
He earned the nickname “Lomu” in school for his confrontational play but up-and-coming South African rugby star Sibusiso Nkosi hopes to break into the Springboks team on the back of his own style.
Not that being named after All Black great Jonah Lomu is not an honour for the 22-year-old, but he is confident he can reach the top level being his own man.
“Not because of any resemblance, only because of the way I used to play – I used to enjoy carrying ball in hand and I used to enjoy the contact situations very much and that’s why my peers called me Lomu,” Nkosi said in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
“I think the [modern] game demands a bit of a quicker, more mobile wing these days so I’m doing my best to try to be that athlete and be skilful in terms of ball handling and connecting with the rest of the team.”
After being called into the Springboks squad during last year’s Rugby Championship but not cracking the 23, Nkosi hopes to kick-start a big season when his Cell C Sharks take on French Top 14 side Racing 92 in this Saturday’s Natixis Cup at Aberdeen.
“It was good to be in the camp and experience the vibe and the professionalism that happens at the highest level of rugby, it did well for my professionalism as a young athlete,” he said.
“I’m very optimistic and very excited. I do want to wear that Springbok jersey but there is obviously a lot of competition [at the Sharks] and first and foremost I need to make sure I secure regular game time in our team and then I can look forward to national hopes.”
The Sharks are ramping up their preseason ahead of their opening Super Rugby match against the Lions on February 17, with a hit-out against a Racing side in the middle of their campaign the perfect preparation.
“They will give us a different challenge from what we will experience in Super Rugby, especially the physicality,” Nkosi said.
“They are very strong in the set piece, whether it be the line-out or scrums, and they will give us a very good tactical game in terms of the kicking.”
The Sharks have landed in Hong Kong with a host of players with Springbok experience in tow, including centre Lukhanyo Am and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who is back in the international fold after a two-year drugs ban.
They trained solidly at King’s Park on Tuesday afternoon, with captain Ruan Botha saying his side are excited to be in Hong Kong and are eager to tackle a Racing side boasting former All Black star Dan Carter and Hong Kong’s Matt Worley.
“It’s a lot colder than Durban, but it’s a new adventure and a new place and the guys are really keen to play this weekend,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to the match and we’re expecting Hong Kong to show up so we can entertain them with some good rugby.”