Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Even as various senior soldiers stumble and fall, the Stormers’ amazing, current penchant for seamlessly introducing youngsters -- some not very long out of their teens -- goes on.
Saturday saw just another customer of this kind successfully spat out of their Super Rugby talent factory as full debutant No 8 Nizaam Carr played a prominent role in the comfortable but hard-earned 17-3 triumph over the Western Force in Perth.
He only turned 21 a few days into their overseas tour, which has ended up sporting an impressive harvest of three wins and 13 log points from a possible 20.
And after a few promising little cameos off the bench, the former SA under-20 star, educated at Bishops and UCT, confirmed his huge potential as he finally got a full game in rain-lashed Perth.
Notably quickly into his stride at nib Stadium, Carr was skilful, purposeful and energetic throughout: with apologies over the motoring link to his surname, he must have a marvellous engine too, because to keep going so impressively in his first extended exposure at this level on a heavy field with some areas of unabsorbed water, was a further feather to his cap.
He could hardly have been blamed for requiring some attention to apparent cramp six minutes from the finish, as his tackle count had been especially high in another of those games where the collective Stormers’ defensive blanket suffocated the life and soul from the opposition.
How often did the Force seriously threaten their visitors’ tryline? There are probably more recorded instances of a nun cheekily winking at the milkman at the convent door.
In addition, I had suggested in the lead-up to this fourth tour match for the Capetonians that Carr’s presence might infuse them with a new dimension on attack, given his known mobility, deft footwork and sure hands.
And it was duly demonstrated when both he and loose forward ally Siya Kolisi were prominent figures in the thrilling breakout that eventually led to Peter Grant’s try about half an hour from the end – that was the “daylight” point in scoreboard terms from which you always sensed there would be no return for the Force.
One of the Australian commentators rightly branded Carr as “sensational ... a real asset on full debut”, whilst former Springbok coach Nick Mallett in the SuperSport studio doubtless had Carr near front of mind when he lauded the Stormers for fielding “an inexperienced team, but one in which all understood their roles”.
Carr’s smooth baptism to the 80-minute hurly-burly of Super Rugby came as a fine tonic to a team reeling to a good degree from a sequence of injuries to core personnel -- including infinitely more seasoned loosies like Schalk Burger and much more recently Duane Vermeulen.
But with last season’s rugged, successful No 4 lock Rynhardt Elstadt presently operating at blindside flank in the reshuffled pack, the injection of Carr’s pace and athleticism actually provided a decent degree of balance to the loose trio.
Whether the “crocked” list reduces itself over the next fortnight (the Stormers have a desperately welcome, post-travels bye before contemplating the Cheetahs at Newlands) or not, at least they know that in the greenhorn No 8 lies yet another quality asset for them in the vital run-in period to the playoffs.
On a slightly less assuring note, many Stormers fans would have winced at seeing emerging, flame-haired loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff – almost a year younger than Carr, remarkably – limping off assisted in the 62nd minute.
Whether he is also going to require any significant time on the sidelines remains to be seen; remember that he is intended to be a particularly treasured ace in the Springbok under-20 pack for the Junior World Cup to be held in his neck of the woods during June.
But at least in that area the Stormers are blessed with some rather more street-wise alternatives if necessary, with names like Deon Carstens and Wicus Blaauw coming to mind.
Mind you, the way things have been going from a talent-production point of view in the Western Cape, a process in which the now-departed Rassie Erasmus clearly played a tireless role, they will probably just keep churning out further confident specimens who have only just discovered the primary use of shaving foam ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing