Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane says he moved to French club Racing 92 because he needed a new “challenge”.
The 32-year-old swing prop left the Blue Bulls last month and spent New Year’s Eve in isolation with his family in a Paris hotel to follow Covid-19 travel regulations after arrival from South Africa.
Prior to featuring in three November Tests, Nyakane watched Racing lose to Montpellier in the Top 14 at their 32,000-capacity indoor La Defense Arena before receiving a call from his future employers.
“I was sitting at the stadium with Bongi Mbonambi [Springbok hooker] and I said if I had to leave South Africa and go to a club, this is the kind of place I’d like to go to,” Nyakane told AFP on Monday.
“After coming here and seeing the facilities, the vibe at the stadium, the way the team carries itself, it’s something I wanted as a new challenge for myself.
“I’m relishing that, so I’m trying my best to learn as much as I can,” he added.
The 121kg prop won the last of his 53 caps in November’s one-point defeat by England, in a rerun of the 2019 World Cup final.
“We said we wanted to be No 1 in the world and we got knocked back to No 2 but now we’re back to No 1,” he said.
“When you look at where we wanted to be as Springboks, we’re exactly where we wanted to be.”
In less than two years’ time the World Cup will be held in Nyakane’s adopted country and the former Cheetahs forward predicts the hosts will be among the favourites, especially after beating New Zealand in the autumn.
“If you look at France, they’ve been outstanding in the last couple of months. They’ve been ridiculous,” he said.
“If you’re going to bring the World Cup to their backyard, it’s not going to be easy for anyone to come and take it away.”
This weekend, Nyakane could make his Racing bow in the European Champions Cup trip to Welsh region the Ospreys.
The Parisians have been losing finalists three times since 2016 and club president Jacky Lorenzetti has repeatedly said it’s a title he wants to lift.
“I’ve watched from the outside and it is a big deal. I don’t think you can sugarcoat that,” Nyakane said.
“Sometimes we say ‘We play for the love of the game’. But it’s not nice to play for the love of the game if you’re always last, so I want as many trophies as possible.
“I might be selfish, but that’s why I play. For me it’s one of the trophies I would love to have in the cabinet.”
© Agence France-Presse
On the block
— Racing 92 (@racing92) January 11, 2022