Notshe, Carr nudge closer to Boks

2017-10-23 16:42
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Gallo Images)

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 dormant indefinitely.

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 2015).

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 tenure).

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: Notshe.

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


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