When Sikhumbuzo Notshe joined the Blitzboks for a three-month stint back at the end of 2017, two things stood out for him.
“When I think back, it had to be professionalism and a sacrificial mindset. It’s a hard-working system where you put others above yourself.”
Pleasingly, the 26-year-old flanker doesn’t merely pay lip service to those values, even though he experienced enough setbacks since then to just give up.
There was the highlight of a Test debut against Australia in Port Elizabeth in September 2018, but an injury-ravaged 2019 means his international career has stalled.
And with it, a World Cup dream.
“This year has obviously been terrible in terms of injuries. But a deal with the Sharks deal soothes the pain. It stings a bit that I couldn’t crack the World Cup squad,” said Notshe, who’s swopped Newlands for King’s Park.
“Once you realise you’re playing a contact sport and you will get injured, you live with it. It’s difficult having to bounce back from first a shoulder injury, then bounce back from an ankle injury and then bounce back and not play all that well.”
Applying the lessons in professionalism from the sevens setup, Notshe is using his move to Durban not only for a clean slate, but also winning his Green-and-Gold jersey back – without putting his interests ahead of anyone else.
“The Springboks is 100% the objective for 2020. However, I’m a process-driven guy. I want to focus on the Sharks first. To get to the Boks, I need to play well for the Sharks,” he said.
“That’s the most important thing for me and my team. I can’t be looking far ahead. If I do that, I won’t achieve any goals.”
Despite him being still quite young himself, Notshe will also embrace the sacrificial nature of his move, to mentor rookies, even if they aren’t all that younger than him.
“It’s a young pack at the Sharks. I’ve been in the system now for a few years, even though I’m still only 26. I need to get those guys up to speed, guiding them and limiting the Hail Mary plays that see you stand under the posts too much.”