CAPE TOWN - Scarra Ntubeni’s smile absolutely lights up a room. It is a smile that has wormed its way into the hearts of the Western Province faithful since the hooker’s provincial debut against the Blue Bulls back in 2011.
Unfortunately for Province fans and the 26-year-old there has not been much to smile about since last September when Ntubeni snapped his Achilles against the Sharks. Ntubeni wondered he “was ever going to play again”.
Those were the dark days, but fortunately for Ntubeni and Province there is light starting to emerge at the end of a long tunnel. Ntubeni made his comeback last Saturday in the 45-34 victory over the Bulls at Newlands, which ironically was also his 50th game in the blue-and-white hooped jersey.
“It was nice to be part of the team environment again where the players and coaches back you. It was just great to be on the field again,” Ntubeni said.
“It was very tough (the injury), especially in the beginning. Not knowing how long it was going to take or if I was ever going to play again. But the union was very good to me. The medical staff was tremendous. I just had to do my part. Work hard, set myself new goals.
“I have a lot off-field support. I kept myself very busy, charities, and things like that. I think it is very important to have that outside of rugby, because it taught me a lot. Sometimes you get caught in this rugby bubble, it was good in a way to be outside of it. I learnt a lot.”
This fresh mindset has certainly had a positive influence on Ntubeni’s game too. For all his energy and skill in the loose, the primary facets of Ntubeni’s game have always needed some polishing.
But on Saturday, Ntubeni was right on the mark with his lineout throwing, finding captain Chris van Zyl and JD Schickerling with regularity.
“We kept it quite simple. We didn’t bring in too many options. That was the key to get the confidence back. It’s a young team but to have guys like Chris and JD does calm the nerves a bit.
“We just wanted to do the basics and keep things very simple,” Ntubeni explained.
Ntubeni’s comeback will continue this Friday at Newlands when the Lions travel south armed with lineout guru Victor Matfield within their ranks.
“We won’t focus a lot on them. We just want to execute from our side. To be consistent. It will be a big challenge. Kanko (Ryan Kankowski) also comes with a lot of experience. He’s back in the mix. It’s going to be exciting,” Ntubeni said.