Nizaam Carr is determined to deliver a statement-making physical performance in his debut Test this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Padova.
On Wednesday, Carr was included in the Springbok match-day 23 for the first time. Coach Heyneke Meyer has made four changes to the team that started against England last week, although it’s significant that five more have been made on the bench.
Included among those five are two uncapped players in Carr and Julian Redelinghuys. Meyer has made it clear that he wants to see if these players can replicate the form shown in Super Rugby on the Test stage. They should get an extended run in the second half of this weekend’s match.
Carr was one of the standout South African players over the course of the Super Rugby season. He received an opportunity to start regularly at the Stormers when flankers Schalk Burger and Siya Kolisi sustained serious injuries. He made that chance count, and his consistency in the No 6 position eventually earned him an invitation to train with the Boks in September, and then an opportunity to tour Europe with the team in November.
Meyer said on Wednesday that Carr’s future is at openside flank rather than at No 8. However, it’s likely the Stormers loose forward will be used to cover the latter position on Saturday.
Carr’s running and passing game certainly enhanced the Stormers attack this past season, and he surprised a lot of people with his improved physicality at the gainline. And yet, as Meyer pointed out on Wednesday, Test rugby will demand more of a player both physically and mentally, and Carr still has a lot to prove.
‘It’s going to be a physical challenge for Nizaam this week,’ the Bok coach said. ‘There’s not a lot of space in Test rugby, and you need to be able to physically dominate at the gainline. Nizaam has a lot of speed but we are also looking for some physicality in the No 8 position. I also want to see what he can do in these northern hemisphere conditions.’
When this was put to Carr, the confident 23-year-old said he was ready to meet the challenge. Italy may not be the strongest side, but they do boast a pack of forwards who enjoy a physical scrap at the breakdown. Carr has vowed to embrace the battle at the rucks and collisions.
‘It’s going to be a test of character, and physicality,’ he said. ‘I think that playing at No 6 for the Stormers this season really helped [in terms of improving his physicality]. You can't hide in that position, you need to front. Obviously I have my strengths with ball in hand, but I’m also looking forward to making a statement at the rucks. I won’t hold back.
‘It’s a dream come true to be chosen for the Boks,’ Carr said, before reflecting on the form that earned him a call-up. ‘A lot’s changed over the past year or so. I said to myself at the start of the season that this year was make or break. And I am satisfied that this has been my best season yet. I feel very happy and am generally in a good space.
‘I’m not a player who likes to rest. I played right through from Super Rugby into the Currie Cup season. I haven’t played since that win in the Currie Cup final, so I’m excited to get back on to the park and obviously really excited to play for the Boks.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images