Springbok prop Ox Nche has opened up about succeeding Tendai Mtawarira in the team’s No 1 jersey and the challenge of facing Scotland’s Pieter de Villiers-coached scrum on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
The expectation at the beginning of the year was that Steven Kitshoff would step into the No 1 jersey vacated by the retired centurion Beast Mtawarira, who ended his 12-year Test career after helping the Springboks win the 2019 World Cup.
However, the World Cup-winning duo of Kitshoff and currently injured Frans Malherbe have been deployed off the bench as Nche, hooker Bongi Mbonambi and tighthead Trevor Nyakane have formed a formidable starting unit.
This has had Nche wearing that No 1 jersey against the British & Irish Lions, All Blacks, Australia and in this past weekend’s Test win over Wales.
“It’s a massive honour for me, I must say. If you look at a guy like Beast who was playing before me and look at where he left the jersey. He made sure that whoever comes afterwards has very big shoes to fill,” Nche said.
“For me, it’s also a challenge because I have to make sure in my journey and with the opportunities that I get that I leave it in a much better place as well. Whatever I do, wherever I play, how I play should be to leave the jersey in a better place. That’s really important and I need to make the most of every opportunity.”
Nche will once again form the front row alongside Mbonambi and Nyakane in what is expected to be a tough Test against Scotland at Murrayfield, especially given the way that the hosts dismantled Australia’s scrum.
“Honestly, it will be a different kind of battle,” Nche said. “The [scrum] coach is Pieter de Villiers. I worked with him in my U20 year and with SA Schools. I know that he is a pretty good coach. You can see it from how well they did against Australia. We are definitely expecting a challenge. They do have pride in their set piece and mauling and have gotten a lot of reward from that. But we are all doing our prep and will man up to the challenge.”
There could be a few familiar faces in the Scotland pack, including loosehead props Pierre Schoeman and Oli Kebble, who are among the players in the squad that started their professional careers in South Africa.
However, Nche said that the Bok pack won’t be targeting any individuals.
“I wouldn’t say it’s giving us any extra motivation. We definitely have a plan against their pack. It isn’t against one individual, but it’s the entire pack. We as South Africans have pride in our physicality. We have eight South Africans in our pack and we are against eight Scottish guys.
“We don’t see it as seven Scottish guys and Pierre. We just see it as eight Scottish guys and eight South Africans. We just want to exert what we have and our plan on to them.”
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