Notshe quietly ticks the boxes

    2016-03-01 14:04

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - He wasn't the most noticeable player on the field, but Sikhumbuzo Notshe did enough to impress the Stormers brains trust in Saturday's 33-9 win over the Bulls at Newlands. 

    Playing in the unfamiliar position of No 6, Notshe was beginning a new journey as he looks to develop his game. 

    The 22-year-old has long been considered a skillful link player with ball in hand, but during pre-season he decided he wanted to become more than that. 

    Notshe approached coach Robbie Fleck, asking if he could possibly have a go on the open-side. 

    The response from Fleck was positive, and the work began. 

    With Rynhardt Elstadt out injured and Siya Kolisi still returning to full match fitness, Notshe was thrown into the deep end and given his chance against the Bulls in the season opener. 

    Fleck had said in the build-up to the match that Notshe's biggest challenge in his new position would be getting into the "dark spaces" and throwing himself around at ruck time. 

    "It’s a big challenge for him and I felt with a big, physical Bulls pack he got stuck in ... that’s the most important part," Fleck said of Notshe's performance immediately after the match.

    "It’s a learning process ... he’s been a 7 or an 8 most of his career so it’s a big change for him. For his first hit-out, not so bad."

    Once the Stormers post-mortem had been conducted by Monday, forwards coach Russell Winter had also seen enough to consider Notshe's first run in his new position a success.

    "I think he worked incredibly hard after looking at the stats this morning," said Winter.

    "Sometimes the guys don’t get seen as doing the hard work when they don’t have the ball in their hands but he worked incredibly hard.

    "It is a new position for him ... he’s used to playing a game where he’s a good link player.

    "He’s a fantastic, skilful player so 6 is new territory for him but he’s embracing it and he’s accepted the challenge. I personally was proud of his performance."

    Fleck has also hinted that he considers No 7 to be Kolisi's best position, suggesting that Notshe's run at 6 could be extended. 

    That said, Kolisi was a bundle of energy when he replaced Notshe on Saturday, and his experience does make him a real option in the loose trio alongside Schalk Burger and Nizaam Carr.

    "That injury put him out for a couple of weeks which is never good in pre-season," Winter said of Kolisi's calf strain.  

    "He came on the field with his leadership qualities and he fitted in nicely. Whether he’s ready for 80, I’m not sure."

    The Stormers are next in action when they take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

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