Tower of strength

PUBLISHED: May 31, 2015

DHL Stormers lock Manuel Carizza’s only regret about coming to Cape Town is that he didn’t do it earlier in his career.

The signing of a foreign player seldom carries unanimous approval in South Africa, but the DHL Western Province and DHL Stormers Faithful will have fond memories of Manuel Carizza.

A wrist injury early in last season’s Super Rugby campaign meant he couldn’t make an immediate impact, but Carizza has been the picture of consistency for DHL WP and the DHL Stormers in the past year. He has even been entrusted with the crucial leadership role of calling the line-outs.

“It’s great to be among the decision-makers in the group because it gives you room in which to express yourself,” says the 30-year-old lock, who has been capped 43 times by Argentina.

Carizza already had a taste of the special atmosphere at DHL Newlands when he ran out for Los Pumas in a historic Rugby Championship fixture against the Springboks in 2012.

It was Argentina’s first match of the tournament and Carizza found himself on the wrong end of the 27-6 scoreline.

“I could feel then that there was something quite unique to the stadium. The crowd is up close and, as a visitor, you feel the hostility.

“As a DHL Stormer you can soak up the energy from the fans, which helps us a lot. We are immensely grateful for that,” says Carizza.

He is equally delighted with the team culture at the DHL Stormers and has enjoyed rubbing shoulders with stars of world rugby such as Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger.

“They’re cool guys and I’ve been well received. I know it doesn’t happen often that a foreigner plays in South Africa, which might make it a bit of an issue for local players. However, I’ve been made to feel at home,” says Carizza.

“It’s also not a coincidence young players are able to take their opportunities because there is no ‘senior versus junior’ culture here. Every guy has the right to express himself.”

Carizza’s learning curve hasn’t been limited to matters on the field.

“I’ve crossed a language barrier after playing in France for a long time. There’s also more structure in the game here,” he says.

“It was tough in the beginning, but I’m comfortable now and wish I had come to South Africa earlier in my career.”

Having played his rugby in France since 2005, mostly for Biarritz, Carizza experienced a culture shock in the southern hemisphere.

“The pace is much quicker here and the weather allows you to play more attractive rugby. In the northern hemisphere, the season stretches across the winter. Teams commit a lot more players to the breakdown, which results in slower possession,” he says.

Carizza believes Argentina’s participationin the Rugby Championship, together with his experience in the Cape, has made him a better player.

“When Argentina joined the Rugby Championship we first had to convince ourselves that we were playing against mortals because we held the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies in such high esteem,” he says.

“Once you play against them regularly, you see that they also make mistakes and start believing that you can beat them. When you play with these guys, you see why you fear them as opponents.”

While Carizza has called the line-outs, the team’s struggles in that department is down to a number of factors, rather than any individual.

“I think we only have ourselves to blame. We worked very hard on the scrums, but perhaps took the line-outs for granted,” he says.

“The other teams worked us out a little and we’ll have to adapt and make a few changes. We’ve learned from our mistakes.”

Carizza is excited about the depth in the squad and believes Ruan Botha could become a No.5 lock of huge stature.

“He is a big boy and very physical. I always impress on him that he should enjoy his rugby. He’s already doing some great stuff and I think it’s just a matter of time before he wears the Springbok jersey,” he says.

Carizza also believes the DHL Stormers are well placed for their run-in.

“We just need to be more consistent and play well for the full 80 minutes,” he says.

“You learn from your mistakes and we should treat every remaining game as a final. The good thing is there is a sense of enjoyment every time we run on to the field.”

Ngubani ongamaziyo uManuel Carizza ngoku

Bekukuncinci okwaziwayo ngo Manuel Carizza ukufika kwakhe eNewlands kulonyaka uphelileyo. Lendoda inde, ilicala, ikhawulezile keniko ukuthandwa phaya eNewlands.

Kungaphezulu nje kancinci konyaka efikile uCarizza kodwa sele engomnye wabadlali iStormers i ngenokwenza ngaphandle kwabo ngakumbi ngenxa yomsebenzi wakhe kwi line-outs.

uCarizza ke uyiforward esebenza nzima nomdlali osoloko ebeka iqela phambili kwaye lonto ibonakala ngokuthobeka kwakhe nendlela avela ngayo emdlalweni.

Ukusebenzisana kuka Eben Etzebeth no Carizza kumgca wesibini kuncedile ukuqinisa abaphambili be Stormers nokuqinisekisa ukuba banamathuba amahle okuhlasela.

Ubuninzi babantu bebunomthanda uCarizza kwimibala yeStormers kodwa ulwazi lwakhe lumenze avele kayi 44 kwi test zaselizweni lakhe iArgentina kwaye yindoda eyake yadlala eFrance edlalela iBiarritz neRacing Metro.

uCarizza uzakuba yile ndoda ithenjiweyo ukubaphambili kwiline-out edlala neRebels namhlanje nokuya phambili omnye wabathandekayo eNewlands ethenjwe ngokunceda iStormers ekufumaneni indebe yabo yokuqala yeSuper Rugby.

DHL Stormers Matchday Magazine