Nyakane’s reason to smile

In a snippet from our latest SA Rugby magazine, Bok prop Trevor Nyakane reflects on the disappointment of his World Cup-ending injury, but why he ultimately saw it as a ‘blessing in disguise’.

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There aren’t too many players who would see a World Cup-ending injury as a positive thing, but for Nyakane, no matter what curveballs were sent his way during 2019 there was always going to be a smile on his face, writes Brenden Nel in our April issue of the magazine.

The birth of Nyakane’s daughter Thando has been a massive part of his journey over the past year, so much so that it overshadowed his World Cup medal. Nyakane had to ask coach Rassie Erasmus’ permission to fly home before the tournament began to be at the birth of his daughter. The coach gladly obliged, but it was a whirlwind trip.

‘I was very excited about the birth of my daughter, even though I knew it was going to be difficult with the World Cup on at the same time. Getting to Japan was an amazing achievement, we worked the whole year for that moment, to be in that squad, but I knew I had to do right by my daughter. It wasn’t her fault for arriving when she did. Fortunately for me the doctor scheduled the C-section for the week after the warm-up game in Japan.

‘Being there for the birth of your daughter is something special; it only happens once. And it is something my wife probably wouldn’t forgive me for if I missed it,’ he laughs.

‘The coach understood what I was going through. It was a bit of a tight schedule because on the Sunday before the start of the World Cup we had a briefing with the organisers and you had to be present for that if you were going to play the next week. It meant I had to go back to Japan a day after the birth. It was very tough for my wife but she understood. At the end of the day it is rugby that pays for things.’

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Having to leave his wife in the hospital and head back to the team was an emotional moment for the big tighthead prop, but he accepted his fate with a shrug.

‘It was a bit tough and sad at the time. Obviously you want to be there. A woman cannot do much after giving birth and you want to spend some time with the person you brought into this world. It was a difficult pill to swallow, but I was grateful I was there for the birth.’

Nyakane’s World Cup didn’t last long as he tore a calf muscle in a scrum in the opening match against New Zealand.

‘I heard the first tear and I thought perhaps I am just cramping. I took another step forward and it was loud and clear. After that I couldn’t do anything, just hop. I knew it could be the end. The amount of pain I was in was immense.

‘It was something that could happen to anyone, but it was very sad that all the work that put me there was gone.’

Never before has a player been so disappointed, yet so happy that he had to come home.

‘It was a blessing in disguise for me, because I think my daughter needed me to be back home and with her. I knew there was always another player who could fill my spot in the team, but when I leave home there isn’t someone to fill that spot. She probably needed me the most, so I like to look at it that it was a blessing to be able to spend time with her.’

*The full interview with Nyakane is available in our April of SA Rugby magazine, which is now on sale. During this period of lockdown, we hope you are able to get your hands on the latest copy, but we will continue to bring you the best possible content. You can also subscribe here