by Stephen Nell
It’s amazing how every now and then one comes across a sportsman that is completely untouched by fame.
Siya Kolisi and Scarra Ntubeni are guys I’d place in that category. Respectively a Springbok and a star performer in this year’s Currie Cup, they’re still the same nice kids that I met when they were fresh out of the Western Province Rugby Institute.
Nevertheless, it’s not my liking for them as human beings that prompts me to suggest that both deserve greater recognition at national level.
Siya has been involved from the Springboks substitutes’ bench and for me raised the bar on each occasion when he replaced the injured Willem Alberts as blindside flank in home tests against Scotland and the All Blacks.
He carried the ball superbly and that try-saving tackle on Ma’a Nonu in the Ellis Park showdown against New Zealand highlighted his value and enthusiasm.
And then there is Scarra. If you meet him in the flesh, you’ll struggle to believe he’s a rugby player. But notwithstanding that diminutive frame he has established himself as one of South Africa’s best scrumming hookers, while he’s a terrier across the park. Best of all, he can find his jumpers in the lineouts – a yardstick by which one measures the competence of a hooker.
Scarra’s impressive performances in the Currie Cup surely could not have escaped the notice of the Springbok selectors. I’d like to see him picked as South Africa’s third hooker – behind Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss – for the end-of-season tour to the UK and France.
There is certainly no justification to pick Chiliboy Ralepelle in the Bok squad when he’s now plying his trade in France. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer should embrace local talent when there are players of equal ability here.
All Chiliboy has on Scarra is experience, but let’s face the facts: As Springbok coaches Jake White, Peter de Villiers and Heyneke all appeared to pick Chiliboy without a great deal of conviction. He’s probably not good enough to ever challenge Bismarck and Adriaan.
Scarra also isn’t there just yet, but he’s a young man whose star is on the rise.
Other “overseas Springboks” who would struggle to make my squad for the tour are scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp, lock Juandré Kruger and fullback Zane Kirchner.
Kirchner hasn’t convinced as a test fullback, while it’s wrong that players are picked from overseas to make up the Springboks’ depth.
Anyhow, I’m looking forward to the Springbok tour and will be fortunate enough to attend the matches in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Paris. I hope to see Scarra there and, of course, Siya in a No 7 jersey.
Also, it couldn’t happen to nicer kids.
Stephen Nell is the senior rugby writer for Die Burger and the author of the book “Springbok Glory: Golden Moments in the Modern Era.”