Regular calf injuries in particular have held the Stormers hooker back at the wrong times, and even though he toured with the Boks on a few occasions under Heyneke Meyer, he never made it on to the field.
But now with his former Stormers boss Allister Coetzee in charge of the national team, one would think Ntubeni would be in prime position to be the back-up to new captain Adriaan Strauss for the first Test against Ireland at Newlands on June 11.
The former KES schoolboy, though, knows he won’t get any freebies from Coetzee if he hopes to make the match-23 next Saturday. “I think I need to get fitter (to earn a first Test cap). I can work a bit on my defence as well – not that I’ve missed tackles, but I haven’t been making enough tackles. I don’t know if that’s just (not enough) time on the field or whether I’m not positioning myself in the right areas,” Ntubeni said after practice in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.
“I’ve had that Springbok blazer on my arm for three years now, so hopefully I can get a chance, God willing, and if coach approves. I wouldn’t know if it’s closer to reality… I would hope so. But you can never give up. I’ve come this far, and I always tell myself ‘You’re working, when is it coming, when is it coming’. But I’ve worked so hard and for so long that I can’t just give up now.”
Ntubeni said that playing six or seven games per Super Rugby season over the last few years has hampered his progress, but he has been able to improve his general fitness in 2016.
“My fitness is good. I don’t have any niggles and it’s been a while since I’ve been injury-free. I’m feeling good and the body is feeling fresh-ish at the moment. It’s been tough over the last few years, playing a few games and then getting injured,” he said.
“But I’ve learnt a lot in those three years – I’ve learnt to manage my body. We’ve got great physios both here and at the Stormers, and they’ve taught me a lot about how to manage myself. That has helped me a lot this year.”
The 25-year-old Ntubeni admits that having a hooker in Strauss as the Bok skipper won’t help his cause to get starts, but Coetzee said at the captaincy announcement on Sunday that one of the main reasons for making the Bulls No 2 the leader was his pinpoint lineout-throwing.
Ntubeni can always improve in that regard, and has been getting some tips already from Strauss. “He doesn’t talk too much. He leads from the front, odd joke here and there. But he is a good man and good rugby man, very professional guy and always willing to help out, whichever position he’s in,” Ntubeni said.
“We actually spent about half-an-hour together now this morning, and after every throw, he would give me a tip – head up, chest out or whatever. It’s nice to learn from someone who doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder, but is willing to help. He’s the type of guy that even if he’s injured, he wouldn’t step back and will try to help the guys in the team.”
@IndyCapeSport - Independent Media
Original source: Scarra aims to be Bok fit