When the Stormers take on the Sharks in Durban today, Notshe will start at No8 in place of Nizaam Carr in the only change to the pack that did duty in their 52-31 loss to the Lions before their bye last week.
Carr has started at No8 in all eight of the Stormers’ matches in the first half of the 2018 competition, and during the team announcement on Thursday, head coach Robbie Fleck explained that Carr’s move to the bench comes after taking into account all the minutes he’s racked up until now this season.
Regarding his selections in the back row, Fleck said: “Neemo has pretty much started every game, Notsh hasn’t had a start yet this season. So now he gets one in his favourite position, so let’s see how he goes.”
Despite the solid contributions that Notshe has made in his few minutes off the bench this year, the 24-year-old hasn’t been properly rewarded for it. Until now.
Notshe’s abilities are well known, and although he’s obviously shown what he can do, his true potential perhaps isn’t. And it can only truly be revealed with more game time. More consistently.
After returning from injury last year, Notshe was superb in Western Province’s Currie Cup-winning campaign under John Dobson off the bench, and so was Carr.
It was also a campaign in which the exciting loose forward showed that skills and appealing footwork isn’t all that he’s capable of producing. And while Notshe, who dabbled in Sevens with the Blitzboks earlier this year, provides great impact in the last minutes of a game, that’s not all a player like him should be used for.
Now I get WP and the Stormers’ predicament – Notshe can play at six and eight, but he’s much better at No 8. And Carr is of course also in that back-of-the-scrum equation.
And the fact that both of them are attacking, linking players probably doesn’t make it any easier.
But that doesn’t mean that there’s no space in the back row for both of them. It doesn’t have to be either/or.
I get that in South African rugby having a bruiser among your loose forwards or “balancing the loose trio” seems as natural as having a tighthead prop who can actually scrum. Besides, that “bruiser” can be in your second row as well. And in recent weeks, Fleck has opted to play Pieter-Steph du Toit, a Springbok lock, at No 7.
And Du Toit has been good. But he’s been good in general, not necessarily as a blindside flanker.
I believe that Siya Kolisi, Carr and Notshe can be arranged in the Stormers’ back row, especially if you look at how the Stormers want to play. And none of them can be swung around like feathers when it comes to collisions and the grittier parts of the game.
The Stormers are in such an enviable position with a number of potential-packed loosies coming through in addition to those three.
But as Notshe heads into his first run-on chance this year, I hope we get to see all of those contributions he’s made off the bench packed into one game. Because he can produce, that we all know. And I hope this is only the first of many chances.