Notshe looks SA’s next big thing

2016-06-11 10:04
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - A champagne showing from spring-heeled loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe tempered the disappointment of SA ‘A’ playing second fiddle to a wily England Saxons team in a high-quality encounter in Bloemfontein.

The Friday night match - an often breathless, attack-spirited affair - was fittingly enough won 32-24 by the tourists, fielding several experienced internationals or wise Premiership heads, and clearly benefiting from better “prep” time as well.

SA ‘A’ coach Johan Ackermann only really began to work properly with a known starting XV on Wednesday so rhythm and structure was always likely to be an impediment at times … and so it proved as the English outfit often skilfully manufactured tries (they took the honours 4-3 on that front) from turnovers secured a long way out.

Otherwise, the home side had plenty of the play, including a majority of possession, and just as much verve and offensive intent when they weren’t succumbing to breakdown errors, lineout inaccuracy or losing some communication and organisational shape on defence.

We could be in for another easy-on-the-eye meeting in George on Friday, with the SA ‘A’ combo quite likely to boast better cohesion and less naïve pacing of play in pursuit of a series-sharing outcome.

That said, of course, the Saxons, whose lungs were seriously tested at altitude in a forceful South African second-half fightback from a 22-3 interval deficit, will again be a tough nut to crack in coastal conditions that should be more to their liking.

They will also have made a mental note or two now about the elusive skills of Notshe, who made frequent ball-in-hand gains for SA ‘A’ either by slipping or leg-driving through holes at close quarters or with stealthy rampages in looser play.

He was undoubtedly the biggest positive about the losing cause on the night, his engine purring superbly for the full 80 minutes; the Wynberg Boys’ High product didn’t even sound too out-of-breath as he spoke eloquently in the immediate on-field television interview afterwards.

Exactly where to field Notshe in any loose trio, it must be said, is an ongoing dilemma, and something that even his home franchise the Stormers haven’t completely solved for him.

He was played as open-side flanker for SA‘A’, although he is no natural stealer with his rangy 1.90m frame and the Saxons were collectively more adept at pinching the ball at breakdowns.

Nor is he a true blindside “bruiser” in Willem Alberts mould, as his reasonably modest 100kg weight is again not the most ideal for regular No 7 stationing in tighter, perhaps more physically-grinding affairs.

A personal inclination remains to gradually draw the 23-year-old back closer to eighth-man duties, especially as the Stormers, next season, will lose another quality individual capable of serving in that capacity when veteran libero Schalk Burger joins Duane Vermeulen (who left a season earlier) in migrating abroad.

Yet Notshe reminds more and more of a young, carefree Bob Skinstad in 1998, who was initially employed by Springbok coach of the time Nick Mallett as a stallion-like, game-cracking impact player off the Test bench with his athletic surges and magical linking and stepping.

Developed carefully, Notshe has the potential to develop into a similar specimen for the Boks.

At the very least, he demonstrated on Friday why it didn’t seem quite such a curveball for him to be named in Allister Coetzee’s fuller, 31-strong senior Bok squad recently …

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    sikhumbuzo notshe  |  rugby

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