A move to the Emirates Lions has coincided with Sanele Nohamba rediscovering the form that made him hot property as a rookie.
Nohamba was the driving force in the Emirates Lions’ revival last week, scoring 24 points as the Pride feasted on the Vodacom Bulls in the latest edition of the Jukskei derby.
It was a timely return to form for 24-year-old Nohamba who has already experienced the highs and lows of a rollercoaster career.
A Junior Springbok in 2019, Nohamba was considered one of the country’s brightest young scrumhalf prospects. The following year, he found out the hard way how quickly things can change in professional rugby.
Nohamba was on fire for a Cell C Sharks team that had made an electric start to the 2020 Super Rugby season, making a big impact at the beginning of what was set to be his first full year as a senior professional. The Cell C Sharks topped the leaderboard and he seemed destined for a Springbok call-up, but a national lockdown slammed the brakes on the 2020 rugby calendar and parked his development.
When rugby resumed in South Africa towards the end of that year, Nohamba lacked the sharpness and spark that had been hallmarks of his game, and the Cell C Sharks pulled him out of the rotation.
His struggles with form coincided with the rise of another local lad, Jaden Hendrikse, and Paarl-raised Grant Williams was also quickly building up a head of steam having come through the club rugby structures in Durban.
Hendrikse and Williams went on to make their Springbok debuts, but Nohamba had to settle for a place in the wider squad for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series.
When Nohamba returned to the Cell C Sharks, he was used sparingly, and the lack of game time eventually led to him swapping Durban’s shores for the inner city of Johannesburg.
That’s not to say that the competition was any easier when he arrived at Emirates Airline Park - Morne van den Berg and Andre Warner were part of the furniture.
Nohamba threw himself into training, getting back to basics and working to regain form. The results are evident in how the Emirates Lions have increasingly trusted him with the No 9 jersey as the 2022-23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship season has gone on.
Nohamba’s revival hit prime time in the Jukskei derby when the Emirates Lions stunned the Vodacom Bulls at their Pretoria fortress.
“I am loving Joburg, it’s my new home now,” he said after the match. “I love the people, I love the place. It has just been rejuvenating for me.
“Without shying away from it, we hadn’t beaten any South African side, so it was good to get one over the Bulls and the boys are really proud.”
The full Nohamba package was on display in that match. Always alert to an opportunity, he scored a try from a smartly-taken quick-tap penalty, and he was a perpetual linebreak threat around the fringes.
His goal-kicking is his point of difference - Nohamba slotted five penalties and two conversions in a flawless display off the tee. It’s what singles him out among SA halfbacks and may well be what earns Nohamba a ticket to France for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.