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From Alice to Ellis Park; the Nohamba journey

SPOTLIGHT: Sanele Nohamba has been a beacon of light for the Lions in their United Rugby Championship campaign this season.

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For the first two games, Jaden Hendrikse played No.10 and Nohamba was in the usual No.9 jumper.

It is a position he has occupied since his school days in Alice.

Narrow losses have been the hallmark of the Lions’ season, but things were about to change.

They had a close (10-15)  loss at the hands of Benetton, and then won their first game by beating the Scarlets 24-23, slumped to a 17-24 loss to Ulster and then clocked a massive 61-19 at home over Zebre.

Nohamba was well and truly in the driver’s seat for the Lions, not only directing traffic from flyhalf, but also piling up the points as the goal-kicker.

@rugby365com chatted to the 24-year-old to get some answers.

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He spoke about his roots in Alice in the Eastern Cape, who played an instrumental role in his early career and of course, how comfortably he has settled in at flyhalf.

And the million-dollar question. Would he like to be considered as an up-and-coming young flyhalf who could potentially take over from Handre Pollard as the general of the Springboks, or are his dreams more focused on being the next Faf de Klerk?

“For me, it doesn’t matter,” Nohamba said, adding: “Growing up in a rugby-loving family, you fall in love with the game early and hope to represent your country.

“So if it happens, I will be chuffed. It doesn’t matter if it is scrumhalf or flyhalf. Just getting the privilege to represent your country, it is second to none in my dreams, so it doesn’t matter,” the friendly scrummie says.

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Nohamba grew up in Alice in a rugby community where he used to sneak away to go and watch club rugby on Sundays.

“Growing up in Alice, it’s a really small town and full of culture. So rugby came across my path at a very young age.

“There is a village league called the Sunday league, so I would dodge church to go and watch some village club rugby.”

Nohamba attended Durban High School where his career took off.

He made the Grant Khomo team and the SA Under-16 High Performance squad.

“There are a lot of people who contributed to my career thus far and I am truly appreciative of those people.

“The one that stands out the most is Scott Mathie, former coach of Griquas who currently coaches the New England Free Jacks. He was a coach at DHS when I was there so he helped me a lot.

“And coming through the ranks and getting into professional rugby, there are a lot of senior players that helped me develop my game.”

Nohamba explained that he has always played scrumhalf while he started with goal kicking at a very young age in primary school in Alice.

“Yes, I was a goal-kicker and a scrumhalf growing up.

“I looked up to a guy like French scrumhalf Morgan Parra. He was one guy I did watch and he was a scrumhalf who also kicked at poles.

“That’s what changed me to that direction.”

Talking about this move to Johannesburg in 2022, Nohamba doesn’t mince his words.

“It was me looking for a change. I was looking for an opportunity to play more at the Sharks that year.

“It was a bit of a mixture between wanting something new, getting out of my comfort zone, and also playing more.

“Being on the field is what makes me happy and I think that was the motivation as well.”

How did the discussion start on moving to flyhalf?

“I don’t know, I just try to put my best forward to contribute to the team.

“On the particular weekend, if it’s at No.9 or No.10, it doesn’t matter.

“If I can contribute to the team and put ourselves in a better place in terms of fueling the game I am happy to fulfil both roles, happy to play scrumhalf  and happy to play flyhalf.”

The two roles are very different.

Was it difficult for him to adapt or does it come naturally for him?

“I think it helps that I played both at primary and high school and a game or two at the Sharks.

“It helps the adaptation to come as naturally as possible. So it comes naturally simply because I’ve played.

“That helped the transition, still playing my natural game, just adapting one or two things here and there.

“It’s different. Both positions are key elements in getting the team in the right areas of the field. The adjustments are crazy.”

 

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