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We’re playing the kind of rugby we’ve always wanted to play, says Sharks prop Ox Nche

Sharks prop Ox Nche in action during their United Rugby Championship clash against the Lions at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, last Saturday. Photo: Willem Loock/BackpagePix

Sharks prop Ox Nche in action during their United Rugby Championship clash against the Lions at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, last Saturday. Photo: Willem Loock/BackpagePix

Published Jan 25, 2022


Durban — In the wonderful world of Ox Nche, there is nothing that a slice or two of chocolate gateau cannot fix but he smilingly accepts that the Sharks’ scrumming resurgence has a more tangible explanation.

Something like the grizzled Georgian scrum coach Akvsenti Giorgadze, who joined the Sharks a few months ago with a CV bursting with success at the French national team plus Top 14 giants Toulouse and La Rochelle.

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The Sharks’ set scrum — for almost two years a cause of heart palpitations for the Sharks hierarchy, notably CEO Ed Coetzee who was once a top-notch prop — is now rock solid, and last week the famous Lions scrum was matched in the Sharks’ fine win at Ellis Park.

“A love of chocolate cake is one thing the tight five have in common, I wish that was the reason why we are scrumming well, but really we have come up with a good system under coach Akvsenti, and before him, coach Etienne (Fynn),” laughed Nche.

“Akvsenti is very good with coaching scrumming shape and technique — he keeps it very simple — and then there is the attitude he insists you have. In short, he expects forwards to be forwards!” Nche emphasised.

Last week, the Lions went into their URC game against the Sharks with a fearsome reputation but a settled Sharks’ tight five that included Thomas du Toit on the other side of the front row plus the established second row of Hyron Andrews and Ruben van Heerden, stood firm against Carlu Sadie et al.

“The Lions had been winning four to five penalties a game on average in the URC and in this game we got two and they got two. It was very even and we are happy because we know we are only going to get better,” the 26-year-old said.

And with the forwards putting in the effort, Nche said it is reassuring to take his head out of a scrum or ruck and see the backs working wonders with the ball.

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“It is an absolute pleasure,” Nche beamed. “We have some very special backs. We have one of the best inside centres in the world (Ben Tapuai), we have our Bok wings (Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi), Lukhanyo Am, and a very talented fullback (Aphelele Fassi). It is amazing what they can do when we get the ball to them.”

Nche said the offloading game that led to some sparkling tries last week is shades of how well the Sharks were attacking when they topped Super Rugby in 2020, before the pandemic struck.

“We are getting towards where we were in Super Rugby,” he agreed. “That is the aim, to play that kind of rugby. We were going really well back then and we want to get back there and then get better still.

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Speaking of the wretched pandemic, it is an unfortunate fact that Nche has yet to play in front of spectators at Hollywoodbets Kings Park despite having joined the Sharks in 2020.

“For me personally, this weekend’s game against the Stormers is a major one for me because it is the first time there will be some fans in the Stadium.

“And it is going to be a massive challenge. The Stormers are on a high after surprising the Bulls at Loftus and they will be very confident. But so are we and it is crucial that we back up our win against the Lions with a home win.”

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