Western Province captain Nama Xaba is one of the most exciting young loose forwards in the country, but for now, he is focused on trying to lead his team out of the Currie Cup doldrums and gobbling up every opportunity he gets for the high-flying Stormers side in the United Rugby Championship.
The 24-year-old Xaba is a turnover specialist of note, but his place in the Stormers team is blocked by the evergreen Deon Fourie, who has been in phenomenal form this year.
But the respect with which the Durban-born player is held in Cape Town is shown by him being appointed captain of the Currie Cup team, which is struggling to stay in semi-final contention with just nine points from eight matches.
“It’s been a baptism of fire for me but a great honour to captain Western Province,” Xaba said.
“It hasn’t gone too well on the field, but we have a young side and we will take a lot of learnings out of it.
“We know what exciting players we have in the union and we’re just waiting for everything to click, we’re trying to get our competitiveness back, we feel like we can touch it, it’s so close.
“A few players are swinging between the URC and the Currie Cup, like myself, Ben-Jason Dixon and Juan de Jongh. In a way, I’m fortunate that I know I’m not in John Dobson’s direct URC plans and I won’t be starting every week.
“But I just try and use whatever opportunity I get in the URC to the best of my ability. It’s tricky when players come down to the Currie Cup side, but obviously their experience is very helpful,” Xaba said.
Change of mood
The Western Province Rugby Union was in disarray a couple of years ago, but the superb success of the Stormers – fourth in the URC log – has improved the mood considerably.
Xaba said the team management have been able to drive a focus on what is happening inside the squad and on the field, but not allowing all the administrative controversy and chaos to distract them.
“The management have brought a lot of change in attitude and we should give them credit. What’s happening in the newspapers is not being allowed to creep into the team space.
“The coaches have done really well because it is our job security on the line. We have focused just on what we need to do, which has freed up the players and we are training well. They’ve done well to shield us.
“Winning is also a big thing. There are a lot of external pressures if you don’t win, because people think those off-field issues are creeping in. But it takes a lot of pressure off when you have the Stormers being so successful in the URC,” Xaba said.