Notshe, Kolbe look into eye of storm

Stephen Nell

Having reported on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s career for a number of years I have developed a soft spot for the Stormers loose forward and, on a personal level, I’m absolutely delighted that he is getting a chance to start a Test match.

That being said, Notshe will run on for his fifth Test cap with much to prove in the No 8 jersey. He’s a very skilful player, but critics have doubted his ability to physically step up to the demands of the game at the highest level.

Earlier this week, John Dobson and Chris van Zyl, respectively coach and captain of Western Province’s Currie Cup team, hit that notion for a six when quizzed about Notshe’s inclusion in the Bok starting line-up.

Dobson noted the maturity that has crept into Notshe’s game. He’s become a grafter on top of being an athletic ball-carrying loose forward, Dobson says. Van Zyl lauded Notshe’s breakdown skills, which he reckons improved through a stint with the national sevens team.

The door was opened by Warren Whiteley’s injury which, based on the Lions captain’s performance in the victory over the All Blacks in Wellington, is quite a blow.

It must be said that Whiteley had seldom impressed as a Test player and, prior to the remarkable events in New Zealand, I had come to think of him as an impressive leader at no more than Super Rugby level. Like many Bok fans I also believe Notshe has to prove that he’s got both the guile and the muscle to be able to have an extended career at international level, and he will do well to emulate Whiteley’s presence in the lineouts.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has been similarly bold in offering Cheslin Kolbe a start for Saturday’s showdown with the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth. We all know what Kolbe is capable of doing with the ball in hand, but much of a wing’s time is spent on defence. His try in Wellington was from an intercept, which doesn’t suddenly make him a proven international winger.

Kolbe has struggled against New Zealand opponents in Super Rugby and there are questions about his ability to step up as a Test player. Perhaps that’s falling into the trap of judging a player on what he cannot do rather than on what he can do.

Erasmus may be going horses for courses – if Kolbe is going to be exposed physically, it is less likely to be against the Wallabies than the All Blacks.

Once again, respect to the Bok coach for what he’s doing. Erasmus has judged the players on their strengths and is giving them a fair crack.

It’s got boldness written all over it and, importantly, he’s also proved that he isn’t selecting black players to keep politicians happy and hold tackle bags. He has done more for transformation than any Bok coach before him. But come kick-off time there’s no place for public relations and no place to hide.

On the surface, the Boks making their run-on debuts on Saturday do not fit the mould of the traditional South African player. When available, the Boks’ first-choice No 8 is the bruising Duane Vermeulen, while it’s only injury to Sbu Nkosi that’s keeping the big Sharks wing out of the Bok team.

While we should appreciate and celebrate the likes of Notshe and Kolbe for their own strengths, in the coming weeks they will have to look into the eye of the storm and prove beyond doubt that they are tough enough.

- Stephen Nell

Let's chat

  • SweetAz

    Jaaaaa Swaer, here we go again. Out of the 121 000 registered adult rugby players in South Africa do you really think these two are the best players in their respective positions? If they are, there are some serious issues around identifying, grading and developing talent.

    Its like we play rugby with one hand tied behind our backs while the other hand is trying to give ourselves an uppercut.

    • Barry Smith

      It is refreshing to read your posts, because you are a little removed and offer first world perspective, and a cut through the chase frankness! We unfortunately often neglect to do this, quite simply because we are sp often subjected to double standards, that it is compelling to try and look for a reason why rather than criticise what is obviously wrong!
      Whilst I like Notshe’s energy, he would be better served playing at 6 and I think would do a better job than Kolisi in that berth! Alternatively as impact off the bench.
      Whilst those from the Cape with unwavering support for Kolbe, have very short memories! It is not two weeks ago that he was nonchalantly set aside by the AB’S wing to concede 7 points! To be fair, he was under gunned by 30kgs of muscle, but that is not justification to bring him back for another embarrassing moment!

      • Dean

        How many times has Rieko Ioane done that, to players of any size in his career? Savea did the same before him. Why not focus on the things he did well in that Test. Scoring a try and making many tackles before and after that. He assisted Whiteley in stopping Ioane in his tracks after that, which was clearly a try saving tackle. He made another cover tackle on the other end of the field that was try saving. You pick the one time a player got the better of him. What about the mistakes by the other players who allowed the other 5 tries in? All these player preferences are only a matter of opinion. If Rassie believes that Notshe and Kolbe have something to offer the Boks then why not give them an opportunity. After all he has to transform the team whether we like it or not and both those players meet that criteria. They also bring a different skill set to those positions than the rest.

    • John Comyn

      Ya boet, I think you are wrong here. Notshe is there on merit. He’s been playing out of his socks and no, he is not Duane Vermeulen but he’s consistently been one of the best loosies in the CC this year. I would play him ahead of Kolisi at 7 and Whiteley at 8. Juarno Augustus will be the next Duane but needs two years at SR level. As for wings we simply do not have any great wings around at the moment and Kolbe is as good as any of the other contenders. All of them are suspect under the high ball and none of them are defensively sound.

      • Greg Shark

        Dan du Preez is still a lot better than Notshe and once again I see the loud shouting emanating from CT based scribes influencing Rassie. Not that he needs much prompting, he was intimately involved in the WP set up and favours them. For example Malherbe (holding out Wilco?) is no better than the Tank, yet average he plays week in and week out… I just cannot fathom how the team that did so poorly in SR seems to crack the nod? There’s the ‘angry warthog’ playing good energetic and exciting rugby yet does not even get a look in the door. Rob du Preez had 5 min on the field behind a shitty pack and got canned, YET, Willemse who had 25 min on the park showed nothing to get excited about and gave away attacking ball for a soft try…. his kicks 15m away from the 5m line for attacking lineout drive end up 15m away and he’s still there?

        I can identify with SweetAz comment above!

        • Dean

          Really? Dan du Preez was not very good in that Bok loss to a 3rd string Welsh team. Notshe deserves an opportunity to show us what he’s got. Akker and Tank have not been left out in the cold. They are still very much in Rassie’s plans for the World Cup and beyond. Koch has taken Tank’s place so that Rassie can see if he still has the desire and ability to play at the highest level. As for Akker, Brits is there as an extra coach, bringing a lot of knowledge to the younger hookers. The players and coaches have highlighted this.

          • Dean

            I believe Rassie has the skills, experience and knowledge to do his job and do it well. That’s what I believe. I back him and the decisions he makes.

          • Greg Shark

            YUP REALLY….not better were any of the forwards who played that welsh (2nd team) game YET there they are! du Preez has been sublime in CC, always on the shoulder supporting players, most wicked ‘chicken wing’ off load and scoring tries!

            Akker and Tank need game time for the Boks…..have they been on the test field of late? NO! If in RWC plans then they must play now. Notshe has had his opportunity before and not brought much to the table, athletic YES, but nothing else….

            Brits? washed up has been…. if Rassie wanted a hooker to be an extra coach, then bring back Bissie, Brits does not cut the mustard and was pathetic in the game or 2 that he pranced onto the field.

            What players and coaches say for your consumption is mere words… believe all that BS?

        • Barry Smith

          Absolutely right Greg, there is more to the very obvious shunning of Sharks Players currently. Perhaps politics between Erasmus and Du Preeze. Who knows, but the Sharks players seem to be avoided when ever possible!

          • Dean

            Wow! Big conspiracy. Like we’ve heard before about all Bok coaches. Provincialism at it’s best. It’s rubbish. Since Rassie has been Bok coach he has selected Esterhuizen, Mvovo, Nkosi, Wright, Akker, Beast, Tank, Chilliboy, Robert du Peez, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Bosch, Mapimpi and Am at some stage. This hardly sounds like a coach who dislikes the Sharks or their head coach. What a ridiculous comment.

        • John Comyn

          I’d agree with you on Malherbe. The last time Wilco went one on one with the Tank he destroyed him. Frankly, Tank is an overrated pussie! I rate Robert Du Preez and throwing him to the wolves for one mistake in 5 minutes of rugby is outrageous. He’s at least 10 times the player Jantjies is. As for daddy’s boy Dan he shouldn’t be allowed on the same park as Notshe. Let’s see how he shapes up on Saturday against the youngster Augustus. BTW there is no love lost between Rassie and the WP union so I very much doubt he has any allegiance to WP players. He just knows class when he sees it:-)

          • Greg Shark

            Tank was a mere fledgling tight head when Wilco …..oops sorry both are tight heads so how did wilco ‘destroy’ him?…its a VERY different story now and it would be interesting to see how that unfolds now.

            Agreed Dan du Preez and Notshe should not be on the same park….Notshe has no off load and no foresight – should not be prancing in a Bok shirt…..its a pity the two are not playing against one another todays CC game….and as for Augustus, well as said so often before a lot of shouting comes out of WP but the much vaunted players fail to deliver…

      • SweetAz

        Not doubting that, just sad if out of 121 000 players the systems have been unable to identify at least another 3 or 4 Duane types. To be the best team in the world your run on players must be regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 players in their positions in the world. How many of our squad would qualify?

        • John Comyn

          Very few right now. I would say maybe Etzebeth, PSDT, Kitshoff, Marx, Beast? Biggest problem is half backs. No top team has average halfbacks and wins anything. They need to know what the other is thinking – Barrett / Smith, Sexton/Youngs, Wilkinson/Dawson, Fourie Du/Morne Steyn, Larkam/Gregan etc The only way to is get consistency is to play them as a combination as often as possible. All the above players play or played for club/province as well as country. Other than Smith and Barrett who I think are in different SR sides but still have 50 caps plus test caps. We change our half backs every game.

  • Barry Smith

    John I usually agree with your posts, but really your comment about Dan Du Preeze is ludicrous!
    Perhaps you did not get to see the Sharks match this past weekend, for if you did, you would have seen Dan Du Preeze in absolutely dazzling form. This confirmed by the press in allocating him the man of the match award!!
    Looking at this Saturday, Notshe will go up against David Pocock 115kgs of trouble, whilst Notshe comes in at 15kgs lighter. For a pro athlete that’s a whole load of muscle. Du Preeze by contrast matches Pocock on the scale but also offers good line out options at a towering 6’5″.
    There is just no way in the world that you can convince me that the selection was done on a fair and equitable basis!

    • Dean

      This Currie Cup is nothing to brag about. The standard is so low, it wouldn’t compete with any domestic competition of the World. It’s the Vodacom Cup of yesteryear, amateur.

      • Barry Smith

        So prey tell, what are we to base our selection criteria on then to gauge current form, if it’s not the Currie Cup?

        You on the one hand celebrate Nel & Notshe’s inclussion through Currue Cup form, yet discount Dan Du Preeze!

        Maybe go and give it some thought!

  • Barry Smith

    Dean, no conspiracy theory, just the facts that are presented to us in the form of selection. You talk about “in Rassie’s plans” well unless you have him on speed dial, you sir, have no idea what those might be! All we have are the selections to base our opinion on and if we are honest with our selves, there are some major question marks. A national side made up of 10 players (or ex players) from the worst franchise in SR, would seem a bit odd! Four from the Lions, that’s the side that have been in the last three SR finals. Then there are guys that get Man of the Match last week who lose out to a guy who put in a solid performance, but is under size for the task at hand! So no conspiracy Dean, just a loads of facts that don’t make much sense!

    • Dean

      Is Damian McKenzie under size too? What about Faf de Klerk? He’s the best tackler in the team yet the smallest man on the field.

      I follow those that have close contact with the Bok camp. ie. Ryan Vrede who is one of the media guys assigned to the team when they are in South Africa. Gavin Rich is another one that is very close to the Bok camp. What came out recently is that Rassie is building depth, 3 players for each position. He is testing players to see if they have what it takes to deal with the pressures of Test rugby. That’s why there have been so many new players. He is identifying who he thinks may be able to play at the WC next year and testing them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      Apparently he will play his best side at the EOYT. Then we will know who is part of the 31 man squad and who is part of the extended squad.

  • Barry Smith

    For Pete’s sake Dean rather use your own intelligence and look at what is presented rather than listening to the spin doctors – they tell stories for a living!

    The issues of players being on the light side in the forwards, goes well and beyond just tackling. Pack weight, rucks , mauls and the fundamental need to match muscle with muscle!

    I have a high regard for Notshe, he will give his absolute best I am sure, but he should be played at 6 not 8! Dan Du Preeze was the right fit for this match and we have missed that opportunity!

    You say we need to test players, yes we certainly do, but they need to be the right players and in the right positions!

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