Nizaam Carr decided a year ago to stop swimming against the stream and today finds himself on tour with the Springboks.
Nizaam Carr, or Nemo as he was dubbed by his Bishops class mates, decided a year ago to stop swimming against the stream and today finds himself on tour with the Springboks.
The Western Province loose-forward, who played a leading role in his team’s recent Currie Cup success, was rewarded with a place in the Bok squad that will start their European quest against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
And while chances are that he will only receive his first cap should one of the more regular members of the Springbok team gets sidelined through injury, the 23-year-old is still unlikely to lose the smile which became a permanent feature on his face when his provincial team won the Currie Cup at Newlands.
Carr credited his Cape Town coaches for their contribution to his career, but also noted that one of the reasons he was able to rise through the ranks had to do with change in attitude he made.
“As a junior I wasn’t as focused, but over this last year I’ve really stepped-up a notch as far as my faith is concerned and I really think that has brought out the best in me,” said the first Muslim devotee to be included in a Springbok squad.
“I was so ‘loskop’ (flighty) as a junior and it was probably the reason why I tore my ACL back then.
“The renewed focus has put everything into perspective,” he said adding that he fully understands the responsibility he has to represent his community with distinction.
Although he has played most of his rugby in the number eight jersey, Carr received his break at the side of the scrum when flank Siya Kolisi was ruled out through injury.
He had to adjust his game and under the guidance of coaches Allister Coetzee and Matt Proudfoot, Carr soon became a rock in his team’s loose-trio.
“If I was playing at eight for the Stormers it would not have been that easy as it more of a linking role while at six you play more towards the ball and your tackle count needs to be high and you have to be abrasive and aggressive,” he said.
“Defence obviously wins games so I had to pick to improve on that front and playing at six this year really helped.”
Off the field Carr is a gentle giant who loves nothing more than spending time with his family and, like many of the top forwards in the country, he has seemingly mastered the art of transforming into a monster the minute he steps over the sideline.
Addressing the media for the first time as part of the Springbok setup, Carr was cool, calm and collected.
He spoke from the heart and was even able to poke fun at himself for doing silly things as a youngster – like trying to compete in a match with a leg he later discovered was in fact fractured.
Understandably delighted with the recent development, Carr insisted that his feet are still firmly on the ground as he tries to learn as much from the experienced players as he can.
“I don’t won’t to be in this bubble and be like, ‘when is Bryan Habana arriving’ or ‘there is Victor Matfield’, so I need to get out of that and embrace that I am here and that I have been selected and it is obviously tough to get out of that bubble, but at the moment I’m really enjoying it and soaking up as much of the experience as I can,” he added.
He is also under no illusions as far as his involvement in the end of year tour is concerned.
“If I do get game time it is going to be a bonus, but if I don’t it is also great because to be part of something this big is a great honour and privilege for me,” explained Carr.
“Out of how many thousands, if not millions of kids…I got selected and that is really special and obviously one for the record books.”
He explained that the Nemo nickname is a result of the difficult time he initially had to find his classes when he received a scholarship at Bishops.
His new friends also found it easier to pronounce than his actual name.
“I was always lost, looking for my classes and I guess it stuck,” he quipped.