Of all the young players worth getting excited about in South African rugby currently, Stormers flank Nama Xaba ranks right up there among the best of them, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Understandably, right now, the focus in rugby circles is on the Springboks and the buildup to the British & Irish Lions series.
Yet, with the Rainbow Cup SA under way, it’s also fascinating to take a closer look at some of the potential future stars shining on the local scene.
Xaba is one of those who must bring a smile to the face of any rugby lover.
The former SA Schools captain and Junior Springbok representative really caught my attention when he was picked to play against the Lions last October. Well, to be more precise, it was the reasoning behind his selection that made an impression.
‘Nama Xaba literally shot the lights out at training,’ coach John Dobson explained at the time. ‘Jaco [Coetzee] has been part of the Springbok alignment camps, but if we’re going to say that this is what we value, then a guy like Nama has to be rewarded.
‘There is no doubt that he’s going to come through. I’m so excited by this player. You don’t get a guy who works harder and he’s just desperate. It’s just the right thing to do on every level.’
It was an endorsement of a player who has endured frustrating struggles with serious injuries in the past, but who is beginning to make a name for himself.
It’s a name we would do well to remember.
In a rugby environment widely populated with back-row bruisers, the wiry but fearless Xaba find himself in rarefied company as an out-and-out classic opensider.
The current law interpretations have elevated the role of a fetcher, allowing breakdown jackals to once again make their presence felt, and the 23-year-old clearly has natural strengths over the ball.
Just take a look at these clips below, which perfectly demonstrate how Xaba gets himself into perfect body positions to survive the cleanout while remaining latched on to the ball like an immovable barnacle.
Nama Xaba at the breakdown 🔥 pic.twitter.com/gjHTTfaaEU
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) May 3, 2021
With his low centre of gravity, there’s something a little Heinrich Brussow-esque about Xaba, who must surely be making his way on to the radar of Bok head honchos Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber as a Player of National Interest.
The word from the Stormers camp is that he is also one of the most professional and dedicated athletes on the scene. A natural leader who is driven to succeed in the game.
As someone who has already fought his way through setbacks in his fledgling career, he is dedicated to his craft and ensuring he can be in prime physical condition to avoid further injuries.
Multi-skilled, and with abilities over the ball and to serve as a link man in open play, there is a lot to like about Xaba.
There is obviously still a lot for him to learn at senior level, but if he can enjoy an injury-free run in the Stormers No 6 jersey, his progression should be a joy to observe.
Nama Xaba: Remember the name!