CAPE TOWN – It certainly takes a special occasion for a Bishops boy to rave about a Wynberg Boys’ High rival, but all Southern Suburbs high-school enmity was put aside with Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s elevation to the Springbok starting line-up on Thursday.
Western Province coach John Dobson – a proud Bishops old boy – could not hide his emotions upon hearing that Notshe will start at No 8 for the Boks against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth. Despite being in the middle of a press conference ahead of his own team’s all-important Currie Cup clash with the Sharks, Dobson took a few moments to firstly compose himself, before regaling the media contingent in a manner so endearing it resembled a teacher speaking about a pupil.
“He has always been a nice, affable character, but he is just such a good team man. If you know Notshe’s background, it is wonderful story. He comes from a school in Langa, before he was subsidised from other parents to go to Wynberg. He comes from a very modest background. Beyond modest. Jeez … for him to play for the Springboks is unbelievable,” Dobson said.
“We said to him to not go to the Institute when he came out of school, he was slightly older, and we wanted to take him under our wing here at WP. He stayed in a house here, and I remember when he was taking taxis to get to Bellville and now he is the starting No 8 for the Springboks. It is a wonderful story.”
Notshe’s journey has certainly moved beyond “taking taxis” with the 25-year-old now arriving at matches in a luxurious 4x4, and is even in the financial position to award a scholarship to a young rugby player at his Alma-mater, Wynberg Boys High, in the same way he was once a recipient of.
But come Saturday afternoon at the former 2010 World Cup stadium, it will only be his prowess on the field that will matter, and Dobson believes his protégé is well-equipped to handle the rigours of Test rugby.
“I think he was always known as a stepper, a carrier … I have had him since U21 level. But what has changed dramatically about Notshe is his work rate on the field. If we remember he played at No 6 in the Currie Cup final last year and he was outstanding. I don’t think we saw one carry,” Dobson said.
“He now has a bit of both. A lot of people have questioned his physicality that he is not quite big enough, but jeez he has intensity.
He has matured a lot. Honestly, he has matured such a lot. It is absolutely brilliant. I could not be happier.”