Super Rugby

Why the Stormers had to let Notshe go

Sikhumbuzo Notshe scores for the Sharks (Gallo)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe scores for the Sharks (Gallo)

There was a moment when watching television last Saturday afternoon that Stormers coach John Dobson had to remind himself that he wasn't a Sharks supporter and that they were in fact the team his men have to go out to beat on Saturday to restore their pride and prime position in the South African conference race.

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According to, it came when Sikhumbuzo Notshe, the man everyone in Durban appears to be talking about ahead of the eagerly awaited Super Rugby derby, went over to score a spectacular try after taking a pass off a quick tap from Louis Schreuder.

They're both former Stormers players, so maybe it was easy for Dobson to be momentarily transported into another reality.

But it was Notshe doing so well that excited him, that had him suddenly doing a double take and remembering that his former prodigy is one of the big threats that his own team will have to blunt in the opposition line-up this weekend.

"Notshe may be playing for another team now but he is a really good friend of mine, and remains a good friend, so it was a weird experience," said Dobson of watching Notshe score against the Jaguares.

"You watch him score and you shout 'Yes!' And then you remember, 'Oh shoot, we are playing against him next week'. I want him to do well at the Sharks, but hopefully he won't do too well on Saturday."

There was another reason that Dobson enjoyed seeing Notshe score against the Jaguares.

He sees the Argentine side as a big threat in the conference race as he knows how difficult they are going to be for the South African teams to play against in Buenos Aires.

Once they get a run of form going, they are hard to stop, as they showed on their way to topping the conference last year.

But it was mainly on a personal level that he wants to see Notshe, a player he himself mentored for a long time, do well for the Sharks.


While there are many who question how Dobson could have let Notshe leave Cape Town to move to Durban given how he is playing now, the reality is that Dobson never wanted him to leave and did make a counter-offer to the sizeable one that was made to the No 8 by the Sharks.

At the same time though, he had to be honest, and ultimately that honesty might well have turned out the best for Notshe and, indirectly, the Sharks.

"I am being sincere when I say he is a good friend, we are house friends. You can be emotional about the way he is playing now, but the reality is that we were in a situation last year where we had to trim a squad of 70 to 45. Notshe has been capped a few times for the Springboks and he wants to play for the Boks again.

"To play for the Boks you need to be playing regular Super Rugby, to be starting in Super Rugby. He came around to my house when he got the offer from the Sharks and we discussed it. He wanted to know could I guarantee him a start in every game. On his form of last year I could not guarantee him that if you consider the players we have.

"Siya Kolisi started the year at No 8. Then we have Trokkie (Juarno Augustus), who was a Junior World Player of the Year not that long ago. Jaco Coetzee is also a very good player and is also a No 8. It would have been irresponsible of me to guarantee him a starting place given the competition for places in his position.

"So we shook hands on it. We had a beer at my house, we wanted to keep him and we made him an offer. But we had to look at the reality of the game time he would get. I always knew if he was given a good extended run he could come through.

"The style of rugby the Sharks play suits him. The turnover emphasis and the space they play for suits him. At the time we made the decision it was the right decision for us and I think we have seen now that it was the right decision for him too. He made the right move."

Dobson is aware that Notshe could hurt his former team on Saturday and says he regards him as a massive threat.

"It is hard to shut down Notshe once he is in space, that is why I was disappointed we weren't able to create enough of those opportunities for him here at the Stormers in the last few years. Make no mistake, he can do the hard yards too. He played for us in the 2017 Currie Cup final against the Sharks at King's Park as a No 6. No-one saw him but jeepers he worked hard," said Dobson.

"We will keep an eye on him, we can't afford to let him get the space he has enjoyed the last few weeks."

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