‘Silent assassin’ and a ‘human wrecking ball ...’ Pundits single out Ox Nche for praise after Springboks’ win

Springboks prop Ox Nche has been devasting off the bench during the Rugby World Cup. Picture: David Winter / Shutterstock / Backpagepix

Springboks prop Ox Nche has been devasting off the bench during the Rugby World Cup. Picture: David Winter / Shutterstock / Backpagepix

Published Oct 22, 2023


South Africa prop Ox Nche was called "the most destructive loosehead in the world" and "a human wrecking ball" on Sunday after the Springboks last-gasp Rugby World Cup semi-final victory over England.

The 28-year-old came off the bench to replace Steven Kitshoff early in the second half in Paris on Saturday and had a huge impact in the scrum as the defending Rugby World Cup champions snatched a 16-15 win.

"He came on 30 minutes late," said SuperSport TV channel analyst Nick Mallett, who coached the Springboks to third place at the 1999 World Cup.

"Ox is the most destructive loosehead in the world - a silent assassin," he added, referring to the 28-year-old born in the central city of Bloemfontein.

Schalk Burger, a flanker in the 2007 Springbok World Cup-winning team, called Nche "a human wrecking ball who made a massive difference".

Nche's power helped win scrum penalties, including one that led to a RG Snyman try which offered hope to the misfiring title-holders, who trailed by nine points with 13 minutes left.

Another scrum penalty enabled Handre Pollard to goal a long-range penalty and secure an October 28 final showdown with their greatest rivals, the All Blacks.

Popularly known as Ox, Retshegofaditswe (We are blessed) Nche is following in the footsteps of other outstanding Springbok looseheads Os du Randt and Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira.

Du Randt helped South Africa win the 1995 and 2007 World Cup finals and Mtawarira retired after being part of the triumphant 2019 team.

'Daylight robbery'

Since Mtawarira quit, Kitshoff has been a regular Springbok starter with Nche, who plays for the Durban-based Sharks, usually taking over soon after half-time.

Nche represented South Africa at schools, under 23 and 'A' team levels before being elevated into the Springboks squad after the last World Cup.

Mallett called the victory over England "daylight robbery" and "an extraordinary win after an absolutely shocking first half performance".

"Our line-outs were poor, we were virtually always second to the loose ball and fumbled numerous kick-offs.

"Experience and the energy introduced by Ox and the other replacements saved us. Somehow we found a way to win a match we seemed destined to lose."

Burger said: "How did we win this match? We were nowhere. I cannot recall a worse first half performance by the Springboks.

"I am not sure the Springboks know how they got over the line. I certainly don't. We were in panic mode for much of the match with no momentum.

"We lost the territory and possession battles, we were forced to make far more tackles and missed too many.

"In the end, though, all that really matters is the scoreboard. Sometimes a team does not deserve to win, but still succeeds.

"My nerves are shot. I did not dare watch when Handre prepared to take that late penalty. That guy has got ice in his veins. What an incredibly cool customer under pressure."

While South Africa set their sights on fellow three-time world champions the All Blacks from New Zealand on Saturday, England will face Argentina 24 hours earlier for the bronze medals.


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