The predatory back-three flyer is making his mark with the Sharks. By Craig Lewis and Alan Dymock
Meet Sharks and Springboks wing Yaw Penxe
FORGET WATERBOARDING, this was a more drawn-out torture. Weeks went by between players being told the Southern Kings wouldn’t be playing in the Currie Cup and being informed of the club’s liquidation. When the inevitable bad news was finally delivered, it was six days before payday.
For a side that felt like it began every day on the back foot, winger Yaw Penxe was a spring-heeled standout. A true product of the Eastern Cape, Penxe represented Border twice at the U18 Craven Week and came through the junior ranks after being drafted into the Kings academy. And from Super Rugby to the Pro14, he scorched a path.
For up-and-comers like him there was still no avoiding this sickener.
Yet as dark clouds gathered at the Kings’ gates, Penxe was also selected to play in the Springbok Showdown, with possibles, probables and uncapped wonders mixing it up in a match the Springboks could use to take stock. And in that match, the wing excelled. He chased down everything, perpetually looking for work and doing everything but score. After the game, Boks assistant Mzwandile Stick, who coached Penxe with the Junior Boks and at the Kings, said: “I know he is a player with great potential and you could see under the high ball he was very aggressive.”
Penxe was not unemployed for long. Now with the Sharks, South African fans can see exactly why Boks supremo Rassie Erasmus and his head coach Jacques Nienaber are excited to see the flyer develop. In June he was named in the wider South Africa squad to face the Lions. So what makes the wing – who is also studying management accounting – just so promising?
His former boss at the Kings, Robbie Kempson, says: “It’s great to see he has an opportunity at the Sharks now, particularly as he was just starting to show what he was worth at the Kings before everyone was hung out to dry.
“He has blitz pace and a good skill-set. He also reads the game very well, and is pretty handy at full-back, as much as at wing. He can kick well out of hand, a well-rounded player.
“Whatever environment he’s in he’ll shine. He’s the type who is determined to keep improving and evolving his skill-set. When he gets an opportunity at the Sharks I’m sure he will prove himself.”
Working hard so you’re equipped to show your true worth is a lovely trait to have in an athlete. The Shark wideout has a pretty straightforward Instagram bio, too. It simply reads: “God bless the Underdog.”
Another admirer is Springboks forwards coach Deon Davids, who looked after Penxe when he too was the Southern Kings boss. Davids has seen the tenacity first-hand.
“Yaw is a special talent,” the coach says simply. “We know his strengths as an outstanding attacker and someone who can finish an opportunity when it comes. I’m really pleased he grabbed (the Springbok Showdown) opportunity and he really did well.
“Yaw was out for so long with an injury but he fought his way back. He is confirmation that if a player works hard enough and grabs his chance, anything is possible. We know there is plenty of talent and probably more of these players, but it is just a question of getting an opportunity.”
Through the recent Currie Cup, Yaw Penxe was described as one of the finds of the tournament, an unexpected club hero. His fast-twitch responses and ability to soar the skies sets him apart. In 2019, in the Pro14, he dropped jaws with a blistering finish against Edinburgh, his try allowing the lowly Kings to win 25-21.
Today his is a story of creating – and taking – opportunities, despite rank circumstances. He has fitted into the Sharks set-up well and hasn’t looked back. Many a defender is sick of staring at his back as he pulls away, too. Now he is in the Springboks set-up.
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