Lions’ star Sanele Nohamba healthy and happy again to take the next step

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus at a press conference.

The Lions’ playmaker Sanele Nohamba has caught the eye of Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus. Picture: Julien De Rosa / AFP

Published Feb 27, 2024


It can easily be agreed that Sanele Nohamba’s decision to pack up in Durban and move to Johannesburg has been a fortuitous one – a great business decision that has only enriched the South African rugby landscape.

The 25-year-old departed the Sharks in 2022, joining the Lions where he has enjoyed a resurgence in his career.

Now in a purple patch of form, the adoration of fans coming his way, plenty of game time and proof of his versatility impressing all and sundry – including Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus – Nohamba has a sound foundation upon which to take the next big step in his rugby career.

A recent invitation to the first Springbok alignment camp will have reinforced a risky decision two years ago and fortify the resolve that higher honours are within reach again.

With the Lions facing his old team on Saturday at Ellis park (kick-off 3pm), Nohamba was given an opportunity last week to reflect on the choice to move up the N3.

Said Nohamba: “The last couple of months at the Sharks, I didn’t really enjoy playing as much.

“I wasn’t playing much, either, which, I think, added to that. I came up to Joburg to just enjoy my rugby and to see what happens.

“The more you enjoy it, the better you play. It was probably the best thing for me.

“I have a lot of friends there (at the Sharks), and it is always good to play against your old mates but we have a game that we need to win to put ourselves into a position to get to the play-offs.

“We are looking for just that one game to put in a good performance and get the points so that we can play the play-offs. That is our goal.”

Nohamba made his debut for the famous red and white hoops in May 2022 as a replacement in a Currie Cup loss to the Free State Cheetahs.

In that 35-26 defeat at Ellis Park, Andre Warner started in the No 9 jersey.

Nohamba’s stock at the union has only gone up ever since.

First, he locked down the scrumhalf position with impressive and niggly displays, then expanded his scope by stepping into the No 10 jumper this season.

The move has worked a treat, with Nohamba putting in some eye-catching performances at pivot.

“Credit must go to the coaching staff and the players around me,” he said humbly, of the tactical switch.

“They give me the freedom to play how I want to play, and to express myself.

“Doing that with the guys backing me, makes it easier.

“I am still working on my game,” he added.

“You can’t stick to one level, so I am working on different parts of my game to try and put my best foot forward and reach higher accolades.”

It is a good attitude to have, especially when considering that Nohamba will have the tough task of impressing Erasmus in positions over-saturated with top talent if he is to achieve the dream of playing for the Boks.

Previously included in the national squad in 2021 for the British & Irish Lions tour, Nohamba missed out on the accolade then to the likes of Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach.

He will have to compete against that trio again this time around, with Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams also in the mix, while the flyhalf position remains in the hands of Handré Pollard and Manie Libbok.

“It is healthy for everyone in the country,” Nohamba said pragmatically, of his chances.

“It is always good to have healthy competition, as you can’t get complacent.

“You are always looking to improve. The quality of the nines is good and they keep you on your toes, while the older guys are also playing well overseas.

“It is a healthy competition,” he reiterated.


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