Tertius Carse was supposed to be overseas now on one of those gap years young people take. Instead he is building a career on the rugby field by trying to cement a place in the Investec Stormers squad for the coming Super 12 season.
Carse will get a chance to prove his ability to live with the Stormers’ two established Springboks, skipper Neil de Kock and Bolla Conradie, when he dons the regional team’s No9 jersey in Friday night’s opening pre-season friendly against the Boland-Cavaliers in Wellington.
Both De Kock and Conradie were injured at the end of last season. Although both will be ready to face the Sharks in the Super 12 opener at Newlands on February 25, and also probably the two overseas warm-up matches, coach Gert Smal is to rest his star duo for one more week as a precautionary measure.
“Both of them will be ready to play once the season starts but right now we want to take it cautiously and they are among a group of players who will not be available for the first match,” said Smal after a training session in Bellville on Monday.
With Paul Delport, the other young player to carry much of the scrumhalf load for Western Province in the last Currie Cup season, playing again for the Cats in the Super 12, Carse stands alone as the back-up to Conradie and De Kock.
“I will probably not include another scrumhalf in the squad for the first warm-up game. I will instead use one of the other backs as back-up,” said Smal.
Carse burst onto the scene last year from relative obscurity by scoring several good tries in his debut Currie Cup match against the Pumas at Newlands. He explained afterwards that his selection for that game might have changed his life.
“I was not really taking rugby that seriously as there were a lot of players in front of me at scrumhalf in WP. This changes everything as I was intending going overseas at the end of the year,” he said at the time.
If there is an injury to either Conradie or De Kock, and neither of them are renowned for going long patches of time completely injury-free, Carse may now find himself playing Super 12 rugby, something he would not have dreamed of a year ago.
However, first he must get out there and impress Smal in the friendly against Boland, a match which the coach sees as an important building block to the new season.
The Stormers completed most of the physical and mental part of their build-up at a training camp near Somerset West last week and Smal will give a first indication of his thinking with regards to combinations when he names his starting line-up on Wednesday.
As tends to be the case when there are three warm-up games, the first one will probably see a mix-and-match team take the field and it is not clear at this stage whether Cape fans will get their first sighting of newcomers Luke Watson and Gerrie Britz in Stormers colours.
“In addition to Bolla and Neil the other players I will not consider for this game include Jean de Villiers (hamstring problem), Dawid Britz and Quinton Davids,” said Smal.
The last mentioned player has been put on a special conditioning and strengthening programme and Smal wants to reintroduce him to the playing field slowly. With the Stormers looking thin at lock, it will be interesting to see what the new-look Davids can produce in the playing arena after a disappointing Currie Cup campaign for him last year.
With Selborne Boome now overseas and Wilhelm Stoltz playing for the Cats again, Davids will certainly carry a heavy burden in the Stormers engine-room.