It’s been a hard road for Mitchell’s Plain-born Nizaam Carr but this week he made history as the first Muslim set to don the green and gold jersey of the South African national team after rugby unification in 1994. After his Western Province team took the Currie Cup trophy at the weekend, Carr finally achieved his career goal of being capped in the Springboks – with his first selection in the upcoming Northern hemisphere tour. His meteoric rise is made all the more impressive by the fact that he grew up, and nurtured his skills at several local clubs in the Mitchell’s Plain area.
Community based clubs, brimming with talented players, have recognized the positive impact the rugby star’s selection will have on grassroots rugby. For Nadeema Khan, the current chairperson of the Rangers Rugby Club, Carr’s selection marked a historic moment for community clubs. She said it proved there was an opportunity for younger players of similar backgrounds to reach the top levels of rugby.
“In years gone by it was difficult for people out in the communities to get to the levels of Western Province. But all that has changed in recent years, and the fact that Nizaam Carr is where he is today, shows to those youngsters that anything is possible,” she said.
Amongst the current crops of players at Rangers, she said he was viewed as an outstanding role model, and proof that if the players applied their minds to their rugby, emulating him was well in their reach.
“At the end of the day there are opportunities for these to be able to make rugby a career, for a short term. It is also how you as a youngster apply yourself, and the dedication and commitment you want to put into it,” she said.
Many of these clubs are situated in the impoverished communities, plagued by gang violence and substance abuse. While sport is a good distraction, it’s easy to fall into the trap of gang and street life. Many talented rugby and soccer players never get to reach their full potential, because they are sucked into a life of gangsterism – a point of no return.
Another local club boss who has watched Carr’s rise with a keen eye is Faeez Burton, of the Silvertree Rugby Club. According to him, the fact that a Muslim player had now successfully broken into the national team, would likely prove to a major motivation for aspiring young Muslim players.
He also recognized the positive impacts the rugby star had already had on some of the players he was currently coaching.
“I coach the under 11 rugby team at Primroses, and we had a training session with him (Carr) just behind his house. The boys were so excited to meet him because he comes regularly to the masjid, and it was such a good example for the boys. They were all excited,and all of them wanted to make Maghrib first before practice,” he said.
He was also hopeful that Carr would perform well in his first game and stake his claim for a long term spot in the team.
“He has done very well and he is a hard worker. He is a good role model and he hasn’t been in the news for the wrong reasons. We are all proud of him, and he is the talk of the town, “he said.
During the under 14, 15, and 16 age group, Carr spent time playing for the well known Primroses Rugby Club, before eventually departing for Bishops College on a rugby scholarship. Former Primroses player and coach, Fuad Deany, said his selection would “kick open the door” for future local stars.
“Coming from a background where he played with community clubs, it will definitely be a boost for youngsters now to follow in his footsteps. Hopefully we’ll have more Springboks coming up,” he said.
He added that judging from his performances at provincial level, it was very likely that Carr would prove to be a big asset for the national side.
Nizaam Carr is in line to make his first appearance in a Springbok jersey on the 8th November, when South Africa faces Ireland in Dublin. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)