Cape Town - He has been one of the stellar
performers nationwide as the Currie Cup approaches its halfway stage in
pre-knockout play this weekend.
But will Nizaam Carr, the tearaway No 8 for
log-leaders Western Province, fall prey soon to that all too common shortcoming
by South African coaches at either Super Rugby or provincial level: flogging
players to the point of exhaustion or often not unrelated injury?
A week and a half ago, WP coach Allister
Coetzee admitted to some journalists that Carr, whose game-to-game work-rate
has often been little short of extraordinary, was in need of some “off” time –
remember that the domestic competition has no bye-weekend luxuries.
He reportedly said of the 23-year-old
dynamo, after Province had beaten the similarly ambitious Golden Lions in a key
fixture at Newlands: “Nizaam has gone through a lot of work and has (also)
played through Super Rugby without a rest.”
Player management would be important, he
said, as the competition wore on.
But he stopped shy of saying he would
consider sitting him out of the follow-up game, away to the Bulls – Carr, who
must be pressing ever more strongly for higher honours, was duly selected and
played a full-blooded role in the fast-paced 23-18 triumph at Loftus on
If Coetzee is going to put his money where
his mouth is in terms of player rotation issues, then Friday’s Newlands date
with the bottom-of-table EP Kings shapes up as the ideal opportunity to keep
his ace No 8 in the garage, as it were ... or perhaps at the very most, install
him among the substitutes and give him some impact time if it happens to be required.
Frankly, if it doesn’t occur this weekend,
you have to suspect it is even less likely further into the run-in to the
semi-finals – Province’s next fixture is a taxing return one away to the Lions
at Ellis Park, for instance, and Carr is highly unlikely to be “pulled” from
In fairness to the coach, who is mindful of
not wanting to lose any unnecessary momentum among his unbeaten charges,
alternative specialist No 8s don’t exactly jump out at him, especially given
that his Stormers first-choice in the berth Duane Vermeulen is a vital figure
in the Springbok mix and almost certainly won’t see any Currie Cup game-time at
all this year.
The designated substitute WP loose forward
at Loftus, too, was Rynhardt Elstadt, not long back from long-term injury and
very much a blindside flank rather than anything else in a loose trio.
But is it not worth taking the risk, even
if the loose forward combination temporarily takes on a slightly unbalanced
look for the visit of the wooden-spoonists, of choosing this attractive point
to put bigger-picture needs first for a change?
Despite some intolerant howls to the
contrary from more unforgiving critics and enthusiasts, I am among those
absolutely convinced that the unusual form problems of late suffered by the
likes of Bok front-rowers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, among others, are
glaringly linked to their over-use at Super Rugby level this season by Sharks
mastermind Jake White ... even if there may be residual fatigue issues from
last year, into the unpalatable bargain.
There is just too much short-term thinking
in South African rugby; might Coetzee bravely break the habit in this instance?
The WP team to tackle the Kings is to be
revealed on Wednesday. A sit-out for Carr? If I were a betting man I wouldn’t
count on it, and I’d be simultaneously thinking: “We may just get a damaged
engine somewhere down the line.”
Perhaps we’ll hear that familiar old
defence: “We’ll manage the player carefully in training.”
Is that good enough?
I’m really not so sure, with the sudden
onset of mental staleness or busy treatment tables and operating theatres often
bearing this out.
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing