Uncapped hooker Scarra Ntubeni is hungrier than ever for his first taste of Test rugby, reports JON CARDINELLI in Stellenbosch.
In November 2013, Ntubeni was included in the Springbok squad for the three-Test tour of Europe. Unfortunately, the Stormers hooker received no game time on that tour as coach Heyneke Meyer favoured Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss in his match 23.
At the time, Ntubeni told the media that he was happy to be part of the extended squad. He was thrilled to be learning about the Boks' structures and culture.
Nearly three years have passed, and Ntubeni is yet to win a Test cap. Injuries played a part in his exclusion in 2014 and 2015. This season, however, he should finally realise his dream to play for South Africa.
‘I’ve had the Bok blazer hanging over my arm for three years,’ Ntubeni told the media from the team’s base in Stellenbosch on Tuesday. ‘Hopefully I will get my chance soon. I’m looking forward to getting out there and representing my country.’
On Monday, hooker Adriaan Strauss was named Bok captain for the three Tests against Ireland. The new skipper will be guaranteed a starting place over the course of that series, and so the two other hookers in the squad, Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi, will compete against each other for a spot on the bench.
‘There’s always been a healthy competition between myself and Bongi at the Stormers,’ said Ntubeni. ‘We know that [coach] Allister Coetzee has high standards [having worked with him at the Stormers before], so we will be looking to prove ourselves over the next week or so. Hopefully that dream I’ve had for so long will become a reality.
‘I’ve enjoyed a lot more game time [at Super Rugby level] this season. Over the past couple of years, I would play six or seven games, and then suffer a lengthy injury setback. This season, I’ve played straight through and my body is feeling good.’
Ntubeni laughed when reminded that his chances of starting for the Boks are not good now that the new captain is a hooker.
‘I think Adriaan is a great choice as captain. He’s not the type to talk too much, but he’s a great guy and leader.
‘What has struck me is the time he has to help younger players. We spent some time together this morning working on my lineout throws. He would offer little tips to help improve my technique.
‘It’s great to learn from someone like that, who isn’t worried about you taking his place. He wants you to succeed and he wants the team to succeed.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images