Cape Town - Both could be said to have
experienced a "stalling" phenomenon in performance terms at varying stages during
their respective and still reasonably youthful careers.
But if signs from Saturday's pulsating
Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands are anything to go by, Western Province loose
forward team-mates Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Nizaam Carr don't intent staying
Carr has been a bastion of reliability and
restless endeavour all Currie Cup season for WP, who will be the visiting finalists
against the Sharks at Kings Park this weekend, and earned the official
player-of-the-match mantle after the defeat of the Golden Lions, even if
several colleagues had virtually parallel claims to it.
The 26-year-old is still not quite hitting
his straps as a brainy linking factor to the extent he did in his earliest
first-class seasons or at SA under-20 level, but with increasing maturity and
wisdom has also come a willingness to do an immense amount of often unsung and
unglamorous donkeywork at closer quarters.
Importantly, Carr still just looks like a
natural, at-ease eighth-man ... which you can't say about certain makeshift
characters in the role for the Springboks of late, following injuries that have
robbed the side of specialists like Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen.
In physical terms - he's not the tallest,
nor the weightiest individual - Carr isn't the ideal man for European winter
challenges, but counter-balancing that, and making him at least worth
considering anew, is his routinely high level of industry, and great engine.
Certainly his stamina came invaluably to
the fore again in the semi-final, as he played as yeoman a role as anyone else
in a WP jersey in keeping out frequent waves of Lions attackers.
Carr is, of course, effectively a graduate of
the steely Jacques Nienaber defensive "school" at Newlands (now Munster-based, Nienaber
specialised with aplomb in that department for WP/Stormers between 2008 and
He does have prior experience of
northern-hemisphere conditions, having accumulated five caps over the course of
two end-of-year tours (2014 under Heyneke Meyer, and 2016 under Allister
Coetzee, who also knows the player so well from his own Stormers head-coach
Ironically, though, if he is to earn a
recall to the Bok fray for the latest venture, just one man potentially
standing in his way could be that notable enigma of South African rugby:
The rangy 24-year-old was an "accidental
hero" in Saturday's passionate, sometimes tetchy semi, coming onto the
sun-soaked pitch as a substitute in the first half for open-side flanker Jaco
Coetzee, who left with suspected concussion.
As best described generously afterwards in
a television interview by Carr, Notshe almost immediately provided a "different
dimension" to the WP loose trio, running some purposeful, wicked lines and
generally reminding of his vast athletic prowess.
It is possible a performance like that has
come a tad too late for Notshe to earn a Bok tour ticket, given that he has too
often under-delivered this year considering the almost Bob Skinstad-like
attacking gifts he possesses.
I wrote in June last year, after a
rip-roaring showing by the versatile player - he has operated in all the loosie
spots - for SA 'A' against the strong England Saxons in Bloemfontein that he
looked like the country's next big thing.
Unfortunately he slipped frustratingly back
toward more innocuous ways subsequently - a trend that has often continued this
season, where he has not always made the starting XV at either Super Rugby or
Currie Cup level for the Newlands-based outfit.
Instead he has more often been an impact
player - a role he undoubtedly has the right credentials for, but which also simply
doesn't do justice to his abilities.
If he can only start more consistently
emulating his dynamism so evident in the semi-final, the pride of King
William's Town still has time on his side to become a massive factor in SA
rugby, for both "club" and country.
But Notshe may yet be a bolter for the
extended squad, to be announced on Sunday, and if he does make the cut, a
personal first reaction is likely to be that there have been many, many worse
selections for a Springbok tour party ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing