Western Province flank Nizaam Carr is pushing hard for Springbok selection, writes MARK KEOHANE.
Eastern Province Kings and former Springbok loose forward Luke Watson raved about Nizaam Carr’s performance when the Stormers beat the Kings in a pre-season game. Watson was injured and watched from the sidelines. What he saw made an impression.
‘Watch this guy. He’s got something special,’ he said. ‘He is a player who understands the nuances of rugby. He is attack-minded and a creator of play.’
The Kings played Western Province in the opening round of the Currie Cup and Watson, starting at No 8, got a much closer visual of Carr, who was starting at No 8 for Province.
Watson, not quite a veteran, was returning from a six-month injury absence but still produced an inspirational Man of the Match display. He dismisses the notion he outplayed Carr.
‘No 8s don’t play against No 8s,’ says Watson. ‘I am flattered that so many have been complimentary of my performance, but I don’t ever believe a comparison can be made in position specifics. One could look at a player’s match contribution or influence, but there is no accuracy in looking for a like-for-like comparison when, for example, two No 8s play against each other.’
Watson was outstanding, especially in the first hour. Carr, like the Western Province pack for 40 minutes, was subdued, but as Province shifted a gear, so did Carr.
‘He is a thinker of the game,’ says Watson. ‘At least that was the impression I got when I watched him play for the Stormers in the pre-season match. He understands space and width. He has vision on the ball and that’s a fantastic quality for any No 8. He is a young player and he has good composure and aggression. He is most comfortable with ball in hand and when he is trying to create plays but he doesn’t shy away from confrontation.
‘I particularly like his attitude of letting the ball talk and always looking to link the play,’ Watson adds. ‘I thought he was good and he will only get better each time he plays. He is a fantastic talent and there are no weaknesses in his game. All he lacks is experience and maturity but those things will come with age and more game time.
‘He has the skills to be a Springbok. He is still very young and the attrition rate is big among loose forwards. He was good when playing at No 6 but I think No 8 is his best position. His carry of the ball is very effective as a No 8.’
'The message for Nizaam is to keep on playing well. He is on the national radar’ – Heyneke Meyer
World Cup-winning Springbok coach and Sharks director of rugby Jake White watched Carr excel as a Bishops schoolboy and a couple of years ago predicted a big future if the player stayed injury-free.
‘You see so many wonderfully talented schoolboys and then they suffer serious injury early in their senior career and they are never quite the same. Nizaam was influential as a schoolboy player and he had a skill set that set him apart from the traditional physical loose forwards who tend to dominate South African sides.
‘He had a good Super Rugby season,’ White adds. ‘He got opportunities because other players got injured but he played so well that he kept the starting jersey. That would have been massive for his confidence. There will be an expectation of him in this year’s Currie Cup and next year’s Super Rugby but it is the kind of pressure he had all his junior career and he always delivered. He is a fine young player who really has a good feel and understanding of his game.
‘He is a good link with forwards and backs and I’ve been impressed with his physicality this season. He doesn’t take a step back and I thought he looked good when he first played for the Stormers and even better with each outing.
‘South Africa is blessed with so many world-class loose forwards, and you have to be bloody good to make the Springbok team as a loose forward.
‘You only have to look at who doesn’t make it to know how much talent there is among loose forwards, but I believe Nizaam has the qualities to be a Springbok. He just needs to be making the Western Province or Stormers team and putting in performances every weekend. Ultimately, his performances will have a greater impact than anything I or any other player or coach will say.’
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer tells SA Rugby magazine that Carr isn’t far off the national squad and that his performances in Super Rugby were of the necessary quality.
‘He had injuries in 2013 so it was great to see him get through so much game time in 2014. He was highly rated as a schoolboy and junior player and he has made the transition to senior rugby comfortably. I enjoyed what I saw of him in Super Rugby. He reads the game, attacks space with accuracy and is a lineout option. The message for Nizaam is to keep on playing well. He is on the national radar.’
Anton Leonard, a former Springbok No 8 and a Meyer disciple, has no doubts Carr can play for the Boks.
‘He’s definitely Springbok material,’ Leonard told the Cape Argus. ‘He’s a strong ball-carrier, runs good lines and is a clever rugby player. It’s a big plus that he’s also a lineout jumper.’
Corné Krige is another of the former Bok loose forwards who has been vocal about Carr’s skills.
‘He has had an unbelievable season and he is putting his hand up for Springbok selection,’ says Krige. ‘I’ve always rated him. In all age groups he’s shown his ability; he’s been there and thereabouts. I’ve watched him from school level, and it’s good to see he’s made the step up.’
CARR ON …
BEING INJURED FOR MOST OF 2012
‘At the time the meniscus and ACL injury was a terrible thing, but now I am grateful it happened. It was a major setback as it came in the first home game I started in Super Rugby – I was ruled out for nine months. But it helped me realise you can’t take things for granted, which maybe I was starting to do.’
PLAYING DIFFERENT LOOSE FORWARD POSITIONS
‘A No 8 is more of a link between forwards and backs, and the role suits me, but today’s No 8 has to be able to do everything, and playing openside has helped to make me a better rounded player. I can carry the ball across the gainline if I need to, I can compete for the ball on the ground, I can put in the big hits. Playing No 6 in Super Rugby required a mental switch in that it demanded a higher tackle count, and it was tough to adapt, but I’m glad I have managed to do that.’
BEING AT THE WESTERN PROVINCE RUGBY INSTITUTE
‘In 2010, I was part of the same intake as Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe and a number of others who are doing well. That prepared me to play with my boyhood heroes, like Schalk Burger. I can’t talk enough about the role it plays in readying you for professional rugby, in terms of building your body and psychologically.’
LIVING WITH HIS PARENTS IN RONDEBOSCH EAST
‘I’m a bit scared of moving away and looking after myself. It’s nice to have my laundry done and my food cooked for me [laughs].’
– This article first appeared in the October 2014 issue of SA Rugby magazine