Stormers coach John Dobson says the decision to allow Sikhumbuzo Notshe to join the Sharks has proved to be in the best interests of the player. DYLAN JACK reports.
Since joining the Sharks from Western Province at the end of last year, Notshe has proved to be a revelation for his new side, starting all six of their games at No 8.
Before his move, the 26-year-old had spent his entire career with Western Province and the Stormers, representing them at youth level before making his professional debut in 2013.
However, over the last couple of years, Notshe found getting regular minutes a struggle and saw his form – which was once good enough to earn him Springbok colours – flounder as a result.
As Dobson explained in the week leading up to the match, the decision to allow Notshe to leave was mutual as the Stormers could not guarantee him the game time he needed to rediscover his form.
‘Notshe is a really, really good friend of mine,’ Dobson explained. ‘When he wanted to leave he came to my house and had a long chat. It is weird, watching him score against the Jaguares and jumping up, but then remembering that we are playing against him the next weekend.
‘You can be emotional and say that [there is regret] with the way he is playing now. But we sat last year and had to trim the squad from 70-odd players to 45. When I say he is a really good friend of mine, I say that sincerely. He is a household friend of mine. Notshe is a five- or six-cap Springbok and needs to play for the Springboks. To do that, you need to be starting in Super Rugby.
‘With the plan to move Kolisi to No 8, Trokkie Augustus – who is Junior World Player of the Year – and Jaco Coetzee, could I guarantee Notshe, on the form of the last couple of years, a place in the starting lineup at the Stormers? It would be irresponsible to promise that. So, we had a beer at my house and shook hands. I told Notshe that I wanted to keep him and we made him an offer. But he had to look at his reality of game time.
‘We always knew that if he managed to get a run [of games], he would be [good]. He was coming off the bench and beating himself up so much. The turnover style that the Sharks are playing and the space [they create], that suits him.
‘It is easy to say now that I regret it. But, at the time, it was the right decision and it has proven to be the right decision for Notshe, which makes me happier.’
With the two being so close, it is guaranteed that if there is one coach who could find out how to limit Notshe’s influnce, it would be Dobson.
With a wry smile, Dobson said that his players would be keeping a sharp eye on Notshe during this weekend’s crucial coastal derby.
‘It is hard to shut Notshe down in space. That is where I am disappointed, that we didn’t create those opportunities for him here over the past few years. Notshe can do the hard yards, we played a Currie Cup game in Durban in 2017 and played him at No 6. Nobody saw him but, jeepers, he worked. I do think the guys will keep an eye on Notshe. We can’t allow him to get the space that he has enjoyed over the past few weeks.
‘It is going to be really conflicted because I really want him to have that kind of a breakthrough for a long time. I have worked with him since 2012. So I am really, really pleased for him. I just hope it doesn’t go too well [for him] this Saturday.’
Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets