VIDEO: 'House friends' go head to head in Durban
NO REGRETS: Stormers coach John Dobson admitted he will have conflicting emotions at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
He will have to find ways for his team to shut down the space of his “close” house friend – six-times capped Springbok Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
The Sharks (20 points) host the Stormers (17 points) in what Dobson described this week as a “season-defining” match.
And one of the sub-plots to this intriguing showdown is the form of Notshe.
While the table-topping Sharks are celebrating their best buy of the off-season, Dobson said “at the time” he had no regrets in letting Notshe go.
Sharks attack coach David Williams described the 26-year-old loose forward as a “fantastic recruit”.
“[He is] a great guy to work with, his planning and detail are phenomenal,” Williams told a media briefing in Durban.
“There is a base each player works off and we challenge him to find those moments of influence.
“He’s certainly achieving that, where small moments from him make big things happen.”
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Dobson was also not shy to sing the praises of his former protégé.
“Notshe is a really, really good friend of mine,” Dobson said at the Stormers’ training base in Bellville – as they stepped up preparations for the coastal derby.
“When he wanted to leave [to the Sharks], he came to my house and we had a long chat.
“It is weird now, watching him score against the Jaguares and [me] jumping up [celebrating the try], but then realising that we are playing against him the next weekend.”
Dobson said he is going to have conflicting emotions in the Sharks Tank.
“I really wanted him [Notshe] to break through for a long time. I have worked with him since 2012 and I am really pleased for him.
“[However,] I hope it doesn’t go too well this Saturday.”
Asked if he had any regrets about letting Notshe go, Dobson said he had no option and it was also in the best interest of the player.
“You can be emotional and say that [there is regret], with the way he is playing now. But we sat last year and had to trim the squad from 70-odd players to 45.
“When I say he is a really good friend of mine, I say that sincerely. He is a household friend of mine.
“Notshe is a six-cap Springbok and needs to play for the Springboks. To do that, you need to be starting in Super Rugby.
“With the plan to move [Springbok captain Siyamthanda] Kolisi to No.8, Trokkie [Juarno] Augustus – who is Junior World Player of the Year – and Jaco Coetzee, I had to ask myself the question: ‘Could I guarantee Notshe, on the form of the last couple of years, a place in the starting lineup at the Stormers?’
“It would be irresponsible to promise that.
“So, we had a beer at my house and shook hands. I told Notshe that I wanted to keep him and we made him an offer. But he had to look at his reality of game time.”
Dobson said he always knew that if Notshe managed to get a run of games, he would run into a rich vein of form.
“[At the Stormers] he was coming off the bench and beating himself up so much.
“The turnover style that the Sharks are playing and the space [they create], suits him.
“It is easy to say now that I regret it. But, at the time, it was the right decision and it has proven to be the right decision for Notshe, which makes me happier.”
Dobson said it would be hard to shut Notshe down in space on Saturday.
“That is why I am disappointed we didn’t create enough of those opportunities for him here [at Newlands].
“Notshe can do the hard yards. We can’t afford to give him the space he has enjoyed in the last few weeks.”
Notshe, who made his Bok debut against Wales in June 2018, played the last of his six Tests against New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld in October that year.