Coach Robbie Fleck decided to rework the loose trio for Saturday’s massive Super Rugby clash against the Sharks at Newlands (5.15pm kickoff), as he wanted to hand a start to another Springbok loose forward in Siya Kolisi, who is now 100 percent after nursing a minor ankle injury in pre-season.
That’s all well and fine, and Kolisi is replacing youngster Sikhumbuzo Notshe. But after Carr started at the back of the scrum against the Bulls and Cheetahs, he has suddenly had to make way for Schalk Burger, and been shifted to openside flank.
Why? All because he stole two turnovers against the Cheetahs and one against the Bulls.
Fleck said at the team announcement at Newlands on Thursday that Carr had done well in playing “towards the ball” in the first two matches, which “is a position that he is not uncomfortable with”, according to the coach. Of course he wouldn’t be, as he wants to start in every game.
But the uncomfortable question is: why is Burger being accommodated at No 8, when Carr is the specialist?
We know all about Burger and his robust style of play, and how he puts his body on the line. He has added some subtle passing skills to his make-up in recent seasons as well, and is a much-loved character across the Newlands divide.
As mentioned before, he has played most of his career as a No 6 flank, but in the mould of a blindsider. He is just not a natural No 8, whereas Carr’s link play and playmaking skills are undoubted, while he has a massive work-rate on defence and – as Fleck noted – is good at the breakdowns.
“Schalk has been covering seven and eight, and Nemo is playing some good rugga at the moment, and funny enough, his stats are up there in terms of he’s playing really well towards the ball – even though he was playing at eight,” Fleck said.
“He stole two balls at the weekend, he stole a ball against the Bulls, so in terms of the poaching, he is looking pretty solid. His defence has been solid, and he had a high ruck count last week.
“So I am happy with how he is playing, and he is certainly playing more towards the ball, and a couple of seasons back, he did play six and played really well. And became a Springbok eventually that year, even though he played at eight in the Currie Cup. But it (openside flank) is a position that he is not uncomfortable with, and there’s a bit of rotation there.”
That’s the thing about the 24-year-old Carr – Heyneke Meyer made him a Springbok in November 2014 after he excelled at No 8 for Western Province in a triumphant Currie Cup campaign, not because he had a top season at openside flank for the Stormers.
Vermeulen was also brilliant at creating turnovers on the ground, but he was never asked to play at openside flank for the Stormers or the Springboks. And neither should Carr, who has earned his stripes – he has over 50 Super Rugby caps – and deserves a proper shot in the Stormers No 8 jersey…
15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Huw Jones.
Original source: Carr deserves proper shot at No 8