'From Gemsbok to Springbok'
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A little heads-up from Rassie Erasmus would have been appreciated, nonetheless, Siyabonga ‘Scarra’ Ntubeni’s Springboks call-up has left Western Province head coach John Dobson ‘absolutely thrilled’.
Ntubeni is one of four Western Province players that was called up to join South Africa squad ahead of their Farewell Test against Argentina on Saturday at Loftus Versfeld.
The others on the list are tighthead Wilco Louw‚ flank Siya Kolisi and fullback Dillyn Leyds.
The quartet’s inclusion in the camp means that they will miss Western Province’s penultimate Currie Cup match against the Griquas on Friday.
Aside from Friday’s intense match, the side, who are fourth on the table, will still have to take a trip to Bloemfontein to take on Free State Cheetahs, making these players’ absence – except for Kolisi, who played less than 50 minutes of Currie Cup – a ‘disruption’ for Province, who are fighting to keep their play-off alive, Dobson revealed.
“In some areas, the National call-ups have been somewhat disruptive,” Dobson told reporters, adding: “But I think we’ve done really well by giving the bench game time against the Pumas last Friday.
“I certainly didn’t expect to lose Scarra Ntubeni this week, but luckily we’ve got Chad Solomans who came from the bench very early against the Pumas.
“Siya, we did expect to lose, nonetheless we still managed to produce a really strong side for Friday’s match against Griquas,”
Commenting on the Ntubeni’s call-up, the coach revealed he was ‘thrilled’ for the uncapped hooker, who he hopes this time will get to wear his Green and Gold blazer – unlike in 2013 and 2014 where he toured with the team but never played.
“We are absolutely thrilled for Scarra,” Dobson said, adding: “That tour that he went on [in 2013], I remember he had to carry his blazer over his shoulder. We teased him this week, saying the Gemsbok can now become a Springbok.
“So grateful to Rassie Erasmus that he has noticed his form, because we have given him a lot of game time. We have teased him in the team meetings, saying that we have melted him down.
“I think at one stage there was a concern that Scarra would never play again [after a ruptured Achilles tendon] and his injury record was so bad. But he fought back and now his nickname in the team is ‘Joy’ because he has been so positive and enjoying himself so much.
“He was outstanding last weekend against the Pumas. His intensity in contact was amazing and he absolutely deserves this.
“I thought he was a guy largely written off on the national front, but now I expect he will get on the field against Argentina. Then he can wear the blazer properly.
“Selfishly I would have liked a bit more warning, but absolutely thrilled for him,”
— WP RUGBY (@WP_RUGBY) August 14, 2019
Another Western Province player who was also favourite to make Erasmus’ World Cup squad was Damian Willemse. However, the 21-year-old suffered a knee injury in June during the Super Rugby match against Lions. The injury saw him miss the Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign.
Erasmus has made no secret of wanting to use Willemse as a backup No.15 for Willie Le Roux in Japan, however, Dobson has other plans for the youngster.
“It was his [Willemse] first week training with the team and he has looked really sharp,” Dobson said.
“We will probably look at him as a 10, this week. We have Edwill [van der Merwe] on the bench and I don’t see SP [Marais] coming off.
“But I think from the Springbok context, they just want him to get on the field and take some contact – I don’t think they will be too bothered where he plays.”
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) August 15, 2019