Rather bashfully, Sanele Nohamba can only giggle with a knowing twinkle in his eye when asked who or which team he thinks he has managed to peeve off the most with his on-fleek gamesmanship in the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The 24-year-old has been known to get under the skin of the opposition, much to the chagrin of opposing supporters and to the delight of South African rugby fans.
When in such a mood, you should know, it is an expression of the joy he takes in playing the game.
“It’s not something that I plan to do,” Nohamba said on Wednesday at Johannesburg Stadium with a chuckle after training. “I’m just enjoying playing my rugby.
“It’s about having fun. At the end of the day, it is just a game. You never know when it’s your last game, so I try and go out every game and have fun.”
Nohamba loving life at the Lions
Nohamba certainly looks like he is enjoying himself at the Lions, whether that means slotting in at No 9 or 10.
The constant game time he has received after joining the Joburg-based union has revealed a multi-skilled playmaker that is touched with a bit of magic on attack, a hard worker on defence and a master of mind games.
At his previous team, the Sharks, that development was arguably stifled by having to play behind Springbok scrumhalves Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams.
Moving to the Lions last season has resulted in the rugby family taking note, with whispers of possible Bok selection in the near future.
Said Nohamba: “I enjoyed my time at the Sharks.
“I learnt a lot, but I was at the stage where I needed a change, and Joburg was my go-to. I’m happy – it was a new environment, new players, new coaches, learning different things and growing as a person and as a player.”
Due to Jordan Hendrikse’s battles with form and the injury of Gianni Lombard, who was up and running at training on Wednesday, Nohamba has been preferred at pivot during the Lions’ recently concluded tour of Europe.
The team’s return to the highveld might involve a tactical rethink, but for the time being – at least against Zebre this weekend – it seems that the Lions think tank will persist with Nohamba at flyhalf.
Options in the midfield
Hendrikse did train at inside centre during the session, too, which could make for an interesting discussion, but it is believed to be due to incumbent captain Marius Louw having a slight illness, which should clear up in time for Saturday’s game (2.55pm kick-off).
“It’s been enjoyable the last few games playing 10,” Nohamba said.
“I played a little bit of 10 at school, so I am not too flustered. It has been a different challenge, which I have really enjoyed.
“It’s about driving the team around,” the Dale College alum added, “giving them direction, an attacking mindset, and playing in the right areas of the field.
“We must find a balance in terms of kicking, defending, and attacking. If we can put those things together, we will give ourselves a chance of putting together a full performance.”
“When you are at 10,” he continued, “you are not too far from the action – but you are a step back. You are not too involved with the big boys.
“You must take the game more seriously in terms of being in the right place. There is more responsibility at 10 in playing the right areas and directing play, more so than at nine.
“You still do the same thing, but at 10 you must give the boys direction. If you niggle around, you forget your job.”
The Lions are currently 13th in the URC standings on nine points after five games.
They arguably just did enough on tour, but with an improved Zebre in their sights at Ellis Park, a full haul of points will be required to give substance to their recent travails and successes.