‘Ultimate Stormer’ Carr: things will turn for Bulls

Bulls loose forward Nizaam Carr recently returned from a 12-week injury layoff, and is ‘fresh and ready to go’ for the Stormers clash. BackpagePix

Bulls loose forward Nizaam Carr recently returned from a 12-week injury layoff, and is ‘fresh and ready to go’ for the Stormers clash. BackpagePix

Published Feb 26, 2024

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Ashfak Mohamed

NIZAAM Carr is the embodiment of a fairy tale for many rugby players in Cape Town who strive to make it big one day.

Born and raised in Mitchells Plain, Carr came through the local school and club systems before being offered a bursary by Bishops – and the rest is history.

But throughout a storied career with Western Province, the Stormers, Springboks and Wasps in England, he would never have thought that he would end up at the Bulls in Pretoria.

Bulls loose forward Nizaam Carr recently returned from a 12-week injury layoff, and is ‘fresh and ready to go’ for the Stormers clash. BackpagePix

And now he has the task of trying to help Jake White’s team to end a horror run of seven consecutive defeats to the Stormers in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown at Loftus Versfeld (5.05pm kick-off).

So, there are a few better placed than Carr to provide insight into what the Bulls need to do to finally take down the Capetonians, but even someone who could be considered as an ‘ultimate Stormer’ is somewhat stumped.

“Every time we play them, it is close. Sometimes the luck sort of – okay, we can’t say it’s luck now, because they have beaten us seven times,” Carr said ahead of the north-south derby.

“But sometimes I feel it’s the bounce of the ball, where the momentum is shifting every single time. The crowd also plays a big role, and hopefully that can work in our favour being at home this weekend, 51 000 people coming out.

“But there are always one or two tweaks in terms of how we want to combat them, and it comes down to execution – if you are doing that on the day.

“The results are showing every single time that we are falling short. But we keep fighting and believe that things will turn out differently, and that we have a good chance this weekend.

“They will probably try to do the same and close down our players and not give them space – we know they are lethal when it comes to that, especially our back three.

“It’s a difficult one to answer (what the Bulls need to do differently), honestly, because both teams are putting in the work. Both teams are sacrificing a lot of their time and even socially off the field.

“We are all trying to get closer and understanding each other better, but I believe things will turn. We are working hard, and there is nothing short on anything.

“Line-outs, mauls, variations from attack to defence, turnover ball ... We work on a lot of things, and we also play what we see – it’s not like we’re overthinking things.

“I believe the luck is going to turn to our side, and we must be positive about it. We might as well play and not have a mindset of having lost seven times, and that it could be eight.”

Carr recently returned from a 12-week layoff due to an ankle injury, and said he feels “fresh and ready to go” for the Stormers encounter.

He played the full 80 minutes against the Valke on the Friday before the Bulls’ 25-10 victory over the Lions at Ellis Park on February 17, and is fully fit and available for selection this weekend.

When asked what factors will decide the clash at Loftus, Carr – one of the most skilful loose forwards in South Africa who can unlock defences with his innovative offloads and silky running lines – felt that the Bulls need to maintain their composure in what will be a high-octane occasion in front of an expected capacity crowd.

“It’s also about the mindset, how you see things. If you are going to make it too big of an occasion, you are probably going to freeze on the day,” said the 32-year-old loose forward, who has five Springbok Test caps to his name.

“Like I said with my advice to the younger kids: be calm. Everything will happen in its time. Just see what is in front of you and bring the best out of you ... do it 100%, and never be 50/50. Mindset is everything on the day.

“Being on this side, it’s no different – you want to beat the people down there in the south. For me, it’s tough, but it’s an encounter I enjoy. It gets the best out of us and me.

“At the end of the day, it’s about attitude and physicality. It’s about the gain line – if you win that, then you are going to win.

“Both sides have good speedsters and play the ball out of the back, hard runners, moving the ball, scrums and line-outs ...

“The mindset must be physicality and about the gain line, and how the momentum is going to shift. The more momentum you get, the better position it is.

“Any 10 can play front-foot rugby, and put his forwards and backs into space. But the moment you don’t win that gain line... Tell me any 10 who enjoys being on the back foot.”