Dynamic loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe only turns 25 on Monday, but today he reaches a half-century of DHL Stormers caps and shows no intention of slowing down.
Notshe grew up dreaming of playing at DHL Newlands, so it will be a special moment when he leads the DHL Stormers out to face the Emirates Lions today.
He was inspired when he first visited DHL Newlands as a youngster, a day which he remembers clearly some 15 years later.
“For me it all started when my dad took me to DHL Newlands with my brother when I was very young. It was amazing, I can still remember watching guys like Breyton Paulse and Bobby Skinstad. We ran behind the bench and called the guys’ names and Breyton looked up and gave me a wink.
“Having grown up in Cape Town, the one thing I always wanted was to play for the DHL Stormers, during my school career, I always had that dream,” he explains.
The young Notshe certainly did not waste any time getting started on that dream, first pulling on the blue and white hoops at U13 level and resolving to chase the dream even harder once he got a taste.
“The U13 Craven Week was the first time I played in the hoops and I remember clearly our coach telling us that for most of the guys it might be the last time you wear the blue and white so cherish that moment.
“From that point I could not get enough of the blue and white, I wanted to make every team in every age-group, I was hungry. From then onwards that was the switch,” he says.
Notshe would go on to play at every age-group level for DHL Western Province on his way through the structures of the union and it was not long before he made his DHL Stormers debut in 2014 at the age of just 20.
Flying out on his own as an injury replacement to join the team on tour in Brisbane in 2014, his debut against the Reds could not have been scripted better as he got his name on the scoresheet to announce his arrival.
Looking back on his debut, Notshe reflects on what a special time it was and how far he has come in the four years since then to have already reached the 50-cap milestone.
“It was my first time travelling alone and I had to ask for help at every airport, because Sydney is huge and I had to catch a connecting flight to the Gold Coast.
“I remember looking at the jersey and putting it on for the first time, realising that it is here now.
“I came on 10 minutes after half-time and scored a try, I remember jumping on Jean de Villiers, who has been a mate to me and we still have a giggle when he is working for SuperSport at DHL Newlands.
“When I sit back now after 50 Vodacom Super Rugby games it feels like yesterday that I made my debut,” he says.
In those early days there were a few senior DHL Stormers players that made a big impression on Notshe and helped shape the player he has become.
“I looked up to Siya (Kolisi) when I was still at school, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger. Sharing a changeroom with them made you realise that this was the real deal.
“Juan de Jongh was a mentor of mine, we had a lot of serious chats, but also a lot of jokes and pranks. He was one guy who took me under his wing and showed me the ropes,” he reveals.
Apart from his teammates and coaches, Notshe also credits his family and school, Wynberg Boys High, for supporting him and giving him the opportunity to make a career in rugby.
“My family has played such a big role for me, my dad and my mom, driving me around and taking me to trainings. My brother who will be at DHL Newlands on Saturday as well.
“My school did amazing work with me, I am very proud to be a Wynberg Old Boy, I am really happy that I was associated with an institution like that,” he says.
Notshe is known as one of the biggest personalities in the DHL Stormers changeroom and he enjoys connecting with the DHL Newlands Faithful, particularly the youngsters who are in the same position he was all those years ago.
“I cherish those moments and I feel for those kids, because I was in the same situation as them, screaming at your heroes.
“I have got a lot of time for them, because a selfie or a signature goes a long way, that kid will remember you for a long time,” he says.
As far as the sense occasion this weekend as he brings up a milestone, Notshe says he will do his best to soak it all up but remain focused on delivering his best performance.
“It is special, but I have got a job to do. I have got a responsibiity to show up for my teammates. The most important thing is that I have my teammates respect,” says.
While it is a significant achievement to have reached a half-century of caps at his age, Notshe has his sights set firmly on the future and the dreams he will conitnue to chase at DHL Newlands.
“It has been a helluva journey and obviously there have been ups and downs, but I am still young, turning 25 on Monday so there is still a lot of energy and I am excited to play with the boys on Saturday,” he adds.