Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe offer timely examples of players who have benefited from carefully considered moves between local franchises, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In a modern era where player departures from local teams appear to predominantly revolve around taking up overseas offers, big-name transfers within South Africa always catch the eye.
In particular, Siya Kolisi’s move from the Stormers to the Sharks has understandably dominated headlines in recent weeks, and it comes at an interesting time.
After so many disruptions to the game over the past 16 months, so much has changed since an in-form Kolisi led the Springboks to World Cup glory.
At that time, a change of allegiances within South Africa could not have been further from his mind, but there is good reason to believe Kolisi’s move will afford him the ‘fresh start’ he has been looking for, and provide a new environment to challenge himself.
As a recent reference, it’s something that Notshe was also looking for when he made the same decision to trade Cape Town for Durban after several years at Western Province and the Stormers.
In a wide-ranging interview with SARugbymag.co.za last year, Notshe admitted he made the move to the Sharks realising that a change was needed if he hoped to revive his career and achieve his ambitions of receiving a recall to the Springboks.
Having earned six Test caps in 2018, Notshe was always seen as a player with immense talent but, for some reason, it was clear he hadn’t reached his full potential.
As it turned out, one of Notshe’s first interactions at the Sharks was an eye-opening conversation with assistant coach Dave Williams, who challenged him in different ways, and intensively reviewed each and every performance from the talented loose forward.
After seven rounds of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season, Notshe would emerge as South Africa’s standout forward. He racked up 259 run metres, 64 carries, beat 22 defenders, executed eight clean breaks, won four lineouts and completed 50 out of 52 tackles. In addition, the 26-year-old created two stunning tries with searing individual runs and banked one of his own.
If the pandemic hadn’t prematurely ended competition, there is no doubt that the 27-year-old would have been back in Bok colours last year.
On the eve of Kolisi’s confirmed switch to the Sharks, it’s also interesting to reflect on Du Toit’s decision to head in the opposite direction when he traded one coastal franchise for another in 2015.
It was a decision Du Toit agonised over, particularly considering the Sharks had spent an extended period supporting Du Toit through multiple recoveries as his career was particularly blighted by knee injuries.
Yet, in the end, Du Toit was simply far happier after making the move to be closer to his family and their beloved Cape-based wine estate, and it coincided with a period of consistent and influential on-field performances as he quickly settled in at the Stormers.
Along with the career-changing move from lock to flank, there is no doubt that Du Toit will reflect on the difficult decision to leave the Sharks for the Stormers as one that ultimately set his career on course to becoming the 2019 World Player of the Year.
For Kolisi, there are numerous reasons that have factored into his decision to move to Durban, but purely from a rugby perspective, he will hope that his on-field contributions start to steal headlines more than anything else.
A fair bit has been said about the fact the Sharks boast a healthy talent pool of loose forwards in a fairly similar mould to Kolisi, and any first-choice selection will not arrive based purely on reputation.
This is an opportunity for the 29-year-old to challenge himself, to reassess his game, to work with a different set of coaches and teammates, and to rediscover some ferocity on the field of play.
Any way you look at it, this is a big moment in Kolisi’s career, but there are recent examples of players such as Notshe and Du Toit who would testify to the benefits such a switch between local teams can have.