Hard work is the goal: Sharksworld chats to Sabelo Nhlapo

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 25 Nov 2010 at 12:21
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Following the news that promising young prop forward Sabelo “Sabz” Nhlapo has decided to continue his career with the Sharks, rather than taking up an attractive offer to play Vartisy Cup rugby for Tukkies, Sharksworld caught up with the likeable front-ranker for a quick chat.

We started off with the regular fare – asking Sabz to explain how a lad from the somewhat unfancied Highlands North Boys High in Johannesburg ended up with the Sharks. ” Yes indeed… Highlands North Boys High… I was head boy 2006,” Sabelo confirms. “I got a bursary in 2002 because of my academics, if you can believe it… I’m from Joburg, grew up in Soweto. I made the Lions u16 schools side and then the SA u18 academy in 06. To be honest, I only started to take rugga seriously when I was selected for that Academy side that toured in Morocco in 06. My mentor at that time, Mr. Donald Ngwenya, advised me to go to the Sharks Academy, because I wasn’t being looked at in the Lions setup, so off I went… Rugby at Highlands wasn’t too strong, but the love of the game was massive and we did quite well in our year”

We asked Sabz if the Sharks offered him a junior contract right away. “No, just an academy bursary, though things got better when I made The SA u19 side in 2007. I never thought that I’d make it – I was up against big names – but somehow I managed! It ws tough, but I worked hard and it paid off… I was chosen at lock but ended up playing blindside flank at the tournament in every game from the bench. I didn’t get a lot of game time, but it taught me a lot and from there I was hooked! I wanted more…” That was the 2007 IRB Under 19 World Cup in Belfast, which New Zealand won by beating South Africa in the final.

We then spoke about the big change in Sabelo’s career – the move from the second row to the loosehead prop position. “I played Sharks under 21s in 2008, yeah. We had a dismal year though! I also played for the SA u20 side in Wales that year. I got back and managed to injure myself a week before the u21 competition began – was out for 8 weeks. That’s when the move to prop happened. I got a bit bigger when I was out so the coaches got ideas,” he laughs.

So how much is ‘a bit bigger’, exactly? Sabz chuckles, “I found myself weighing 115kgs after rehab and I was 108kgs when I got injured… I’m 117kgs now, although I was 122kgs before [Sharks conditioning coach] Mark Steele got hold of me!” We spoke about the transition to prop and whether Sabz found his height (at 1.95m, he’s tall for a prop) a disadvantage. “Nah, not at all,” he says, “Ettiene Fynn helped me out a lot than and and still is now. If it weren’t for him I don’t know where I’d be now. I was reluctant at first, but started loving it when I managed to improve a bit. It’s a major challenge, but that’s what makes it fun. My first game at prop was last year in a friendly against Border before the Vodacom Cup. I wasn’t meant to play but someone got injured and that’s how I got my first taste – after only 2months as a prop. I loved it! I played Vodacom Cup and under 21 at prop in 2009 – that was my ‘learning’ year, but I wanted to start every game. Dale Chadwick and I rotated quite a bit in the under 21 side.”

We let Sabz continue his story. “This year (2010) was frustrating. I played Vodacom Cup, got injured and then never managed to get back in. I put too much pressure on myself and I had my fair share of injuries that further frustrated me. Thank goodness for my club, College Rovers though, who kept me going. It was good to make the Sharks Currie Cup squad – I was in there the whole season, learning a lot from Plum and the others. I guess you can call it paying my dues! I don’t want to lie though, I was keen to play, but it didn’t happen for me this year. It got a little frustrating, especially when Eugene van Staden came in, but I had to constantly remind myself of the bigger picture. The props at that stage were Wiehahn [Herbst], Pat [Cilliers] and me. Eugene got in when I tore my hammy at practice two weeks before the Griquas game. I was gutted when it tore, because I was so close but yet so far. He’s a good player though; he made use of his chance and I’m happy for him.
Rob: Ah ok – didn’t realise that. So close and yet so far, hey

“As for Club Champs, well, it came at the right time. I was fit and had a point to prove to myself. That [Rovers] team was special and boy did we dominate! I just wanted to play well, everything else took care of itself.” Sabelo’s solid performances in that competition won him a few good reviews and, along with a number of other members of the Rovers team, he was offered the chance to relocate to Pretoria. “I was on my way to Tuks, because basically I’m at the stage where game time is key, wherever it might be and I thought Varsity Cup would be a super opportunity. That was until Plum intervened and convinced me to give it a go in Durban again. So here I am, fighting it out again!”

So what exactly did Plumtree say, we asked? ” It was intense – can we leave it at that? He didn’t make any promises. He just pointed out a few things to me and I reconsidered…”

So what is the goal for Sabz, now that he’s committed to making a success of things in Durban? “The goal is consistency; hard work and the rest will take care of itself… and to have that black and white jersey on my back. Working hard is the target, the rest I’ll put in Gods hands…”

We’d like to thank Sabelo for his time and wish him all the best for the 2011 season and beyond. Glad to have you back, Sabz!


  • Nice interview Rob.

    Damn it must be difficult for players on the fringe of a team to stay motivated and positive.

    But players like Sabz should look to Charl Mcleod for an example of a player who moved to Durban with the hope of playing for the Sharks. He hung around for ages as 3rd choice scrummie, occasionally making the bench, but when his chance came he grabbed it and the rest is history.

  • Comment 1, posted at 25.11.10 12:54:14 by jonnow Reply
  • Nice one,Rob 🙂 all the best to you,Sabz!! Train hard !!
    At that height I would actually think he needs some extra weight..but then I saw that hayman is 1.93m 120kg,so perhaps not ..all comes down to technique the scrum experts that height,he is another line-ouy option!and he should be quite a menace carrying the ball forward!!

  • Comment 2, posted at 25.11.10 12:55:32 by bergshark Reply
  • Have the names been made available of u19 contracted players?

  • Comment 3, posted at 25.11.10 12:58:28 by bergshark Reply
  • @bergshark (Comment 3) : somebody told me that they are intentionally not making a big deal about it because they’re worried about poaching

  • Comment 4, posted at 25.11.10 13:00:32 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Another one the lions let slip??!
    Then again,we let rhodes go,and someone also whiteley.. Would like to see him get an invite to sevens training squad!!

  • Comment 5, posted at 25.11.10 13:00:37 by bergshark Reply

  • I find it concerning how impatient young rugby players are.

    Luckily for this lad he had a coach who talked some sense into his head.

    At 22, he is still a baby and if he manages himself correctly, has another 11/12 years of rugby left in him as a prop.

  • Comment 6, posted at 25.11.10 13:10:35 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 6) : not that going to Tuks and continuing to develop under Heyneke Meyer would have been a bad thing either, mind you. I think part of the problem with the professional game is that players are constantly reminded about how short their careers are and they need to maximise their earning power from as young an age as possible. If you only start to play regularly at 25 that doesn’t leave you very long to “cash in”

  • Comment 7, posted at 25.11.10 13:17:37 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) :

    The flip side is get pushed too early, and basically have a career destroyed by age 24 or 25 (read Chili and guys like Solly???).

    Continuity through communication is massive. Of course any player has to move if it is clear he is going no-where in a current situation.

    The fact however that Plum had a chat to this kid, means that he has a plan or map for this kid’s career, something he would have had to have started a-new in a Tukkies setup.

  • Comment 8, posted at 25.11.10 13:19:58 by Morné Reply
  • @robdylan: what’s wrong with those other unions??! Can’t they scout talent for themselves? !
    Well,its good to know that the other unions follow our talent id so closely..

  • Comment 9, posted at 25.11.10 13:20:08 by bergshark Reply

  • Awsome read! Good luck and may you serve the Black and White with pride!

  • Comment 10, posted at 25.11.10 13:20:23 by Ice-Cool CC Champ 2010 Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @bergshark (Comment 9) : it might just be yet more strooli paranoia

  • Comment 11, posted at 25.11.10 14:12:54 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • rob ❓

  • Comment 12, posted at 25.11.10 14:28:15 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • I just had a call from G and he said sorry no offence he does not use Fb and has no idea how he got on there , infact whilst laughing he said he didnt even know how to use FB

    As for beast it looks positive that he will stay , but with beast being in England nothing is cast in stone yet

    Hoffman and Bosman and Potgieter have arrives and are doing well , accept bosman has had a groin op

    will be trainging soon, Smitty looking very strong

  • Comment 13, posted at 25.11.10 14:31:25 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Nice to read about the up and coming Sharks.

    Seems like a decent guy with his head screwed on properly.

  • Comment 14, posted at 25.11.10 14:35:55 by lostfish Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter Competition Winner
  • I thought beast is staying??

  • Comment 15, posted at 25.11.10 14:36:59 by bergshark Reply

  • Now I’m confused and worried!

  • Comment 16, posted at 25.11.10 14:38:08 by bergshark Reply

  • How is jean deysel coming along?

  • Comment 17, posted at 25.11.10 14:41:21 by bergshark Reply

  • G? Eugene ..;-)

  • Comment 18, posted at 25.11.10 14:55:56 by bergshark Reply

  • Will you update asap with news on beast,please?

  • Comment 19, posted at 25.11.10 14:57:20 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 19) : I don’t feel happy with Beast being so close to Dick Muir for 5 weeks.

  • Comment 20, posted at 25.11.10 15:24:13 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @sharks_lover (Comment 13) : good stuff. Thanks for the update

  • Comment 21, posted at 25.11.10 15:24:50 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 21) : a pleasure boet

    actually its quite weird how people are getting facebook and they did not sign up for it

  • Comment 22, posted at 25.11.10 15:28:20 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @bergshark (Comment 17) : lol at trying to figure out who my source i2 😀 😀

    btw deysel is coming along greatthey have a couple of weeks of hard training then close for the season

  • Comment 23, posted at 25.11.10 15:31:54 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @robdylan (Comment 20) : just so you know , the lions had targeted all our non white players

  • Comment 24, posted at 25.11.10 15:33:26 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @sharks_lover (Comment 24) : let’s not get into that, please? Interesting nonetheless, but not the place to discuss it.

  • Comment 25, posted at 25.11.10 15:47:25 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Hope this guy continues in the same vein.

    One can only imagine his power if he can hold his own in a scrum after just 2 months training as a prop! 😯

    Mark Steele is a phenomenal conditioning coach and could really maximise his natural strength and athleticism.

  • Comment 26, posted at 25.11.10 15:57:57 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • At least beast will be surrounded by kanko,keegan,bissie,jannie,willem and ali,so hopefully he will be subject to some positive peer pressure if dickey muirtjie tries some under-handed tactics..
    But is that not one of the most serious offences a bok coach or anyone involved in bok coaching set-up can be caught doing??!can a union instigate a case of damages if someone in bok coaching team tries to misuse position to influence a player,s on deciding between team a and team b??

  • Comment 27, posted at 25.11.10 15:59:32 by bergshark Reply

  • But the way things are going(re:the performance of the backline,creativity on attack)then I think dickie muirtjie will find himself spending a lot more time at the lions from next season on.. Hehehehehe

  • Comment 28, posted at 25.11.10 16:05:33 by bergshark Reply

  • @sharks_lover: thanks for update on jean deysel,much appreciated..wishing him all the best !!
    Lol yes,seems like you and rob are communicating in cryptic messages 🙂

  • Comment 29, posted at 25.11.10 16:26:44 by bergshark Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 25) : sorry boet just said it as it was said

    was a worry in the sharks camp but luckily thats all past now but i hear ya

  • Comment 30, posted at 25.11.10 16:57:16 by sharks_lover Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • thanks Rob its always great to hear they want to stick to Sharks he’ll get far in time :mrgreen: 😉

  • Comment 31, posted at 25.11.10 21:29:15 by chaz Reply


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