The Stormers announced on Monday afternoon that Groom will be leaving the Cape side to join English club Northampton for the start of the 2016/17 season.
The 26-year-old scrumhalf will complete the Super Rugby season first, though, and will hope to add an elusive title to go with two Currie Cup triumphs for Western Province.
Groom, who hails from King William’s Town, came through the ranks at WP after matriculating at Rondebosch Boys’ High. He first caught the eye for UCT in a victorious Varsity Cup campaign in 2011, and made his Stormers debut in the same year.
But after playing behind Ricky Januarie and then Dewaldt Duvenage, Groom was also embroiled in a battle for the Stormers No 9 jersey with Louis Schreuder in 2013 and 2014, eventually gaining the trust of then-coach Allister Coetzee in the Currie Cup-winning season.
He brought up his 50th Super Rugby cap against the Reds nine days ago, but never got an opportunity at national level. There was an opportunity for Groom – who was in outstanding form at the time – to be called up to the Bok tour to Europe at the end of 2014 following an injury to Rudy Paige, but Heyneke Meyer opted to summon the Lions’ Ross Cronjé instead to Cardiff for the final Test of the year against Wales.
And even with his former boss Coetzee now the Bok coach, Groom is unlikely to get a look-in ahead of Rudy Paige, Faf du Klerk and Cobus Reinach.
So it is quite understandable that he would be looking overseas at this stage of his career, and at 26, he is young enough to conceivably qualify for England for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
“Leaving Cape Town and the Stormers is going to be tough and a big change, but I’m looking forward to embracing new experiences, both on and off the field. I have many happy memories playing in Cape Town; it’s where it all started for me,” Groom said in a Stormers statement on Monday.
“I’ve been here my whole career and I’m so thankful for everyone who has played a role in my journey so far. The coaches, players as well as the passionate fans will always have a special place in my heart.”
Victor Matfield is the only other South African at the club, but will hang up his boots at the end of the current season.
Groom will compete with English international Lee Dickson and Samoan No 9 Kahn Fotuali’i for the scrumhalf berth at the club, which contains a number of top talents such as England captain Dylan Hartley, centre Luther Burrell and lock Courtney Lawes.
Northampton’s director of rugby Jim Mallinder said Groom could be a hit at Franklin’s Gardens. “Nic is a talented player and we believe he will be a great addition to our squad next season,” he said.
“He has shown over the last few years that he has the ability to manage a game and to captain and lead a team. He has a lot of experience in Super Rugby, coming up against some of the world’s best players every week, and this will be invaluable as he competes for the scrumhalf position with Lee Dickson and Tom Kessell.”
But before he trades Cape Town for Northampton, Groom will hope to play an integral part in the Stormers’ push for a maiden Super Rugby triumph. His quick running game and courageous defence has been a key part of the set-up over the last few years, and he will have to guide young flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis for the rest of the season.
“In consultation with Stormers coach Robbie Fleck and Western Province coach John Dobson, we decided to give Nic the opportunity to play for Northampton, but he still has a big role to play in the rest of our Super Rugby campaign,” WP director of rugby Gert Smal said.
“We would like to wish Nic all the best for his future. He has been a stalwart at Newlands and we appreciate the contribution he has made here, both on and off the field.”
Going forward, the Stormers and WP are well-stocked at scrumhalf, with the experienced Jano Vermaak set to return from a neck problem after the June Test window, while Schreuder and Godlen Masimla are pushing each other to be Groom’s understudy.
But Smal said that WP would “keep a close eye on the scrumhalves we have in the system, and if necessary, we will look at recruiting another scrumhalf”.
Meanwhile, earlier on Monday, Stormers wing Leolin Zas received a two-week suspension from Sanzaar for his clash with Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley.
But luckily for Zas, he will only miss one Super Rugby game – against the Sunwolves on May 14 – after the Stormers argued successfully that the 20-year-old would’ve played for Western Province against the Sharks this weekend.
Original source: Groom to leave Stormers