Scarra Ntubeni chats to Sport24
Cape Town - In an exclusive interview, Stormers hooker SCARRA NTUBENI talks about regaining
his confidence, dealing with crying babies and facing the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands on Saturday night.
asked: James Dalton has said, “Scarra displays an eagerness for the game and is
prepared to do the dirty work. He doesn’t just get the ball and look to shine.”
What is your self-assessment?
Ntubeni: James has a valid point as my primary
focus for the Stormers has revolved around me being a tight forward who
continues to work on his accuracy and execution at set-piece play. However, I’m
also the type of player who relies on instinct and would describe my playing
style as opportunistic, particularly in the loose. I enjoy linking up with, and
feeding off, my teammates in a match. For instance, I know Schalk Burger likes
running the ball up and passing it in the last moment. So as his teammate, I’ll
try to feed off that, and just before contact, tell him that I will come off
him. It’s good to know if a player likes passing in contact, before contact or
on the outside of a defender.
asked: As a collective unit, the Stormers scrum has really clicked this season.
However, would you agree that the lineout has not been up to the standards you
set yourself as a team?
Ntubeni: Definitely. While our scrum has operated
effectively this season, I believe we need to get better at lineout time. Our lineout execution this year has
been really disappointing at times. When we struggled so much with the
lineouts, I lacked confidence because it’s a part of my game that I pride
myself on. Against the Brumbies, for example, we threw a lot of quick balls and
took the options that were on, instead of forcing a ball to go parallel with
the attack. Against the Rebels, we will focus on the easier options i.e. take fewer
risks, because what we need is the ball and it doesn’t matter how we get it.
Hopefully a simpler approach going forward will allow us to take the step up.
asked: England flank forward James Haskell has said, “You need a robust body
with a level of strength but rugby is still a game of skill.” As a forward, how
do you hone your all-round game?
Ntubeni: I believe skills are instinctive but in
the same breath they can also be trained. It’s actually quite scary how many
forwards aren’t able to pass and catch effectively, as those are the basics of the
game. However, when you come up against a team with forwards who boast a
well-rounded skillset, it changes the whole dynamics because they are less
predictable than a team whose forwards don’t pass. When you play against teams
like the Highlanders and Hurricanes, you never know what expect because their
forwards aren’t just going to tuck the ball under their arm. Those teams prove
that big forwards are well capable of moving around and playing with the ball.
asked: The Stormers have scored the fewest number of tries in Super Rugby this
season –18. What added dimension will Blitzbok star back Seabelo Senatla offer
the Stormers on attack?
Ntubeni: The added potency Seabelo brings to our
attacking game is pace and creativity. When he gains possession of the ball in
space, all we as his teammates need to do is run forward in support. I would
definitely rather play with him than against him. He is a player with game-breaking
ability. With Sanzar regulations stating that you must make four appearances in
the league phase to become eligible for selection in the playoffs, he has been
selected in the starting team for Saturday.
asked: In rugby, the Injury rate per 1 000 hours is 69. As such, it’s officially
the most dangerous team sport, with an average of 1.4 serious injuries per
match. What’s your opinion?
Ntubeni: That is a scary stat, which I did not know
of until now. It’s quite mind-boggling that the injury rate is actually that
bad. My mom, Deborah, is still nervous of me playing the oval game but I think
she has accepted it now because she knows that rugby is my passion and chosen career
path. After having a number of injuries to contend with over the last few
seasons, this year I’ve really focused on looking after my body. I have learned
to manage my body and know when to rest. I follow Keven Mealamu on social media
and can see why he’s enjoyed such longevity in the game. Taking care of his
body is his number one priority. A lot of players can take a leaf out of his
book. While I’m enjoying my rugby at the moment, I’m not sure if I will still be
playing the game at 36. However, Keven has definitely shown players what’s
possible with professionalism and discipline.
asked: You once shared a place with Siya Kolisi. How tough was it losing your
Ntubeni: (Laughs). It’s fair to say I’ve lost a
soldier but it’s understandable since Siya is now in a relationship and has a
son. I think family life has done Siya a world of good, and we still spend a
lot of time together. He is more settled now and is driven to perform. Like
myself, he also experienced a tough time last year in terms of his game. Having
the little one has reignited his focus and I can attest to the fact that he
works really hard. I must admit, I’m not that cool of a babysitter because
after an hour, I want to give Nicholas back to his parents. The little guy is
cute until he starts crying!
asked: You next face the Rebels who have made the third-most carries in the
competition – 1 449 and the third-most tackles – 1 434. What do those stats reveal about the
Ntubeni: Those stats suggest that we will have to
match them physically and assert our dominance, as they are momentum-based
side. We have seen that their forwards are very direct, in the same mould as
the Bulls/Waratahs, and they boast a strong maul which we are worried about. In
addition, they possess backs that are unpredictable and a flyhalf who can kick
them out of trouble. To win, we will need to prosper at set-piece and will have
to stop their dominance with our defence.
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