Scarra Ntubeni chats to Sport24

    2015-05-22 10:52

    Grant Shub

    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.

    Sport24 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?

    Scarra 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.

    Sport24 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?

    Scarra 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.

    Sport24 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?

    Scarra 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.

    Sport24 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?

    Scarra 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.

    Sport24 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?

    Scarra 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.

    Sport24 asked: You once shared a place with Siya Kolisi. How tough was it losing your housemate?

    Scarra 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!

    Sport24 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 Australian side?

    Scarra 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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