Ox Nche says he never lost hope of a second Springbok cap, and it was hard work that has earned him another opportunity to represent South Africa.
Nche’s first Springbok cap came in 2018 in Rassie Erasmus’ first game in charge of the Boks. Since then he has been on the periphery of the Springbok squad, but has now finally broken through into the starting team.
When asked if he ever doubted whether he would represent the Springboks again, Nche said he had never lost hope and that hard worked earned him the honour of a second cap.
“Every rugby player’s dream is to represent your country and be the best player you can be. Ever since [my first cap] I’ve been telling myself, ‘Do whatever it takes to get back there’.
“Getting a chance to represent your country is the biggest honour and privilege. The only thing I had was hope and hard work.”
Nche is following in the footsteps of some of South Africa’s greats in the loosehead jersey, but the Sharks man has said that he’s not even thinking about comparisons and is focusing on his own game.
“Honestly speaking, it is a privilege to have even gotten this opportunity. I can’t compare myself to guys like Os or Tendai, because I’m just beginning my journey.
“I try not to think about it because those guys are legends, so not to put pressure on myself I just focus on what I can do to help the team and where I can contribute.”
Working with Springbok coaches Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber has been an education, insists Nche. The standards they expect of Springbok players are ones he is striving to meet.
“I don’t have the experience that most guys have, in our pack I’m one of the guys with the least caps. From what I have learnt from the coaches is that they have standards that the Springboks thrive on. I’m still getting there, but personally I’ll do anything to make sure I get to that level.
“Every single detail, every single way to get better, I’m always willing to listen. They want everyone to be aligned and the intensity on and off the field has been pretty good.”
Nche will be packing down against a famously ferocious Georgian scrummaging unit, a challenge he is looking forward to.
“I’m excited for that challenge. I’m like 1.75m, so I can go pretty low [in the scrum]. It’s an exciting challenge for me personally and it will be an exciting battle up front. They are a a very good team, so taking them on at the set pieces is always going to be a major challenge, but we’re well prepared for that.”
Newly appointed scrum coach Daan Human is one of the key figures in ensuring the Boks are prepared for whatever Georgia throw at them, with Nche crediting his influence.
“I’ve been working with coach Daan since I was U19, and I know him very well. He has a passion for scrumming and has ignited that in the rest of us forwards. It’s been really competitive.
“Everything is competitive, we’re trying to get each other better. From where the World Cup scrums were we’re trying to go another step and get even better – that’s just what the Springboks do.”
The Boks will make their keenly awaited return to international rugby on Friday evening at 7pm. It will be Jacques Nienaber’s first Test in charge and he will be desperate for a momentum-building victory leading into the B&I Lions series.