Vincent Koch says the struggles he endured at scrum time in his last Springbok Test against Argentina served to make him a mentally stronger player, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Nelspruit.
Starting in his first Test almost exactly a year ago, Koch was given a torrid time by Pumas prop Marco Ayerza, who used all his experience to manipulate proceedings at scrum time and gain the upper hand at this set piece.
Koch conceded a sequence of penalties, and was eventually substituted at half-time, although a number of questions were raised after the game over referee Romain Poite’s interpretations and decisions at scrum time.
Nevertheless, the timing could hardly have been worse for Koch, who was looking to stake a claim for selection in the Springboks’ World Cup squad.
The disappointment of Koch’s debut start and subsequent World Cup omission could have broken the confidence of a young player who had earned national recognition after a number of strong performances for the Pumas and Stormers.
Yet, after being named on the bench for this Saturday’s rematch against Argentina in South Africa, Koch says he used that experience to make him a better player.
‘I’ll admit I did take it very personally at the time, but I’ve now put it behind me. I took a lot of lessons on board from that match, and now it’s a new opportunity to take what I’ve learned into this next game.'
The Boks are set to come up against a strong Pumas pack, with Ramiro Herrera, Agustín Creevy and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro slotting into the front row, but Koch said they were looking forward to the challenge.
‘We’ve worked hard as a pack because we know that Argentina will look to manipulate us there [at scrum time]. So we’ve looked at that and will really look to ensure we’re as well prepared as possible.’
Elaborating on his personal journey over the last 12 months, Koch told SARugbymag.co.za that he knew his career could have gone one of two ways after his scrum struggles last year.
‘It was the sort of thing that can take you down, or you can use it to build you up. I just decided to ensure it made me stronger. I couldn’t just go into my shell and give up. So for me, I learned a lot from that, and it’s made me a much stronger person and player.’
Koch is set to join English club Saracens at the end of this year, and he acknowledged that it would be important for him to make a lasting impression before heading abroad.
‘It’s great to be part of this Bok group again. I know it may be more difficult going forward to earn selection as an overseas-based player, so I’m just looking to make the most of this opportunity and lay down a marker so that I can hopefully earn selection again in the future.’
Photo: Grant Pitcher/Gallo Images