Cape Town - Nizaam Carr hasn’t been sitting on news of his selection to the Springbok squad for days - he found out about it on Monday like everybody else.
“No one told me beforehand, I rushed home to get the Bok squad announcement on TV at 11.30am,” Carr told the Cape Argus on Monday. “And that’s where I saw it - that myself, Seabelo Senatla and the rest of the crew were the newcomers in the squad. It’s one of the best feelings ever seeing my name out there. I’m so happy and overwhelmed.”
Carr, 23, lives with his folks in Rondebosch East, and it was his mother who came to the lounge to see what all the commotion was about.
“I jumped up and I was screaming, ‘Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, come watch! I’m in the team!’ She was very excited for me but said I need to soak this all up and stay humble and modest.”
That won’t be a problem for the unassuming Bishops old boy who is the ultimate team man.
“It’s a great honour and privilege to be part of something so big, but a lot of credit must go to my teammates, coaches and managers for believing in me and giving me the opportunity. At the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure I was going to be selected to the Stormers match-day 23. I know it’s a cliché, but this really is a dream come true.”
Carr started the Super Rugby season on the bench, but an injury to Siya Kolisi led to him starting the final 11 matches of the Stormers’ campaign in the number 6 jersey.
He returned to his preferred number 8 position during the Currie Cup, when Duane Vermeulen left for Rugby Championship duty with the Boks, and finished the season as one of five Province players to start 11 matches en route to beating the Lions in Saturday’s final.
Renowned for his athleticism and linking play, Carr showed flashes of the grit and toughness that are prerequisites for playing in South Africa’s back row, but he isn’t the kind of player to talk himself up.
“Only time will tell if I am a Test-quality player,” he said. “At the moment I’m just honoured to be part of it all.”
His Islamic beliefs made news in July when he shed weight while fasting, and Carr admitted that his status as the first Muslim to be named in a Bok squad comes with responsibility.
“It is important that I’m making history, but to me it’s about playing. Rugby is rugby, and even though it’s out there that I’m a Muslim, I don’t want to make a big fuss about it.
“That’s my belief, and probably where I get my motivation from, but at the end of the day it’s about your teammates and playing for them.
“I obviously have a massive responsibility because I represent a lot of people who want to be where I am, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself and I don’t want it to sound like I’m harping on about Islam - that’s my religion, and that’s it.”
Carr has a rugby academy in Lansdowne and he’s hoping that his promotion to the national set up will instil a belief in his community of young players to strive for greatness.
“That’s the idea,” he said. “We started this academy because we want to create opportunities for kids in the community.
“That’s how I got my opportunity - I was noticed in a rugby tournament and from there I went on to play in the Western Province under-12 team.
“It’s my goal to do the same thing for the youth in the community.”
Of his elevation to the Bok side, Senatla said:
“I made it a goal to get into the (Bok) side, that’s why I came to play 15-man rugby - to give myself a shot at the Boks,” the 21-year-old SA Sevens standout told reporters via a teleconference on Monday. “Coming to Western Province was a stepping stone to making the Springbok squad.”
This season, Senatla burst on to the Currie Cup scene for the eventual champions, revving up Province’s counter-attack but earning special plaudits for his accuracy and physicality at the point of contact.
The Welkom-born speedster missed half of the domestic campaign due to an ankle injury and then SA Sevens commitments, and his tally of three tries in the remaining six league games does an injustice to the contribution he made to Province’s title-run.
It was always his plan to make it impossible for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to overlook him, and there were no traces of surprise in Senatla’s voice when asked about the achievement.
“I didn’t think it would happen this soon, I thought it would take a little longer, but I’m really stoked,” he said. “That’s what you’re hoping for all the time. It’s just something nice. Everyone in South Africa wants to put that green and gold jersey over their shoulders, so it’s super-good.”
Though he didn’t use precisely that superlative, Carr believes his teammate is a superb talent who has earned the call-up.
“We’ve come a long way over the 14 weeks of the Currie Cup,” Carr said.
“Seabelo is a fantastic and exciting player, and I have huge respect for him. If there’s one guy who deserves (a Bok call-up), it’s obviously him. It’s really nice he’s being rewarded for his great play, and now he’ll have the chance to follow in Bryan Habana’s footsteps.
“It’s going to be exciting to work with Bryan, my idol and inspiration growing up. I’m going to try and learn as much as I can from him. It’s going to be awesome to be on the same field as him.”