Springboks barometer: Sanele Nohamba among Handre Pollard’s pursuers at flyhalf

Sanele Nohamba of the Lions celebrates with the player of the match award after a United Rugby Championship game against Zebre

Sanele Nohamba of the Lions celebrates with the player of the match award after a United Rugby Championship game against Zebre. Photo: Steve Haag Sports/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published Feb 6, 2024


Ireland’s emphatic Six Nations defeat of France at the weekend has underlined how tough they will be when they tour South Africa in July.

IOL Sport has been exploring the options available to Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus in a series that has so far covered positions 15 to 11. Today, we look at flyhalf.

The incumbent: Handre Pollard

Pollard came into the Springbok World Cup squad through the back door, and he was walking on water by the end of the tournament. Originally left out of the 33-man squad because of injury, he was called up to replace the injured Malcolm Marx. After cameos against Tonga, France and England, he started in the final against New Zealand and his kicking arguably won the World Cup.

The contenders: Manie Libbok, Sanele Nohamba, Johan Goosen

The year 2023 was Libbok’s breakout season at international level. His enterprising play on attack gave the Boks a new attacking dimension.

He has a lovely knack for unlocking defences with deft kicks or simple, straight running. He is not afraid to take the ball to the line instead of hanging deep and this asks questions of the defence, while his nifty offloads to support runners do the rest.

The Stormers flyhalf’s kick-pass to Kurt-Lee Arendse in the Boks’ pool match against Scotland was a thing of beauty. His Achilles heel, though, is his inconsistency off the kicking tee.

His kicking radar was badly off in the match against Ireland and went a long way to his team losing the game — each side scored a try in the 13-8 result but Ireland kicked their goals and South Africa didn’t.

Libbok was famously subbed after just half an hour of the England semi-final because he was struggling with his tactical kicking. On came Pollard to save the day in the second half and Libbok was never going to start in the final.

The flyhalf status quo will continue in the series against Ireland but the good news is that Libbok has kicked better for the Stormers this year and will get another chance soon enough given Pollard’s long-standing issues with injury.

In the new United Rugby Championship season, the revelation of the South African challenge has been Sanele Nohamba. Injuries to Jordan Hendrikse and Gianni Lombard contributed to him getting a shot at flyhalf and he has been superb in the position, making him the first-choice 10 in the books of most critics.

Nohamba played flyhalf for periods at Durban High School but it was at scrumhalf that he made a name for himself in the unbeaten Sharks under-19 team that was coached by Sean Everitt, who later became senior team coach.

Nohamba and Boeta Chamberlain formed a brilliant partnership and both graduated to the senior Sharks squad. Strangely, the Sharks let Nohamba go and he has flourished at the Lions, as has another Durban discard, Marius Louw.

Nohamba is one of those special players that makes things happen most times he gets the ball. He is a nightmare for defences and do not be surprised if he gets a national call-up at some point this year.

IOL Sport