CAPE TOWN – Vincent Koch says the high energy levels and motivation in the Springbok squad has made it easy for him to slot in.
The Saracens tighthead prop, who last featured for the Boks almost two years ago, was one of the players called up to the Boks for the two remaining Rugby Championship Tests against the Wallabies on Saturday in Port Elizabeth and the All Blacks on October 6 in Pretoria.
And while he has been performing for Saracens in England, the 28-year-old says that South Africa's win over New Zealand in Wellington was a big moment for him.
“Of course, as a South African you definitely keep on watching the games no matter if you are abroad. And of course after the great game against New Zealand. It was an amazing moment,” Koch said yesterday.
“You can see the guys' energy levels are up there and they arr just a bit more motivated as well. So for me slotting in is really easy.”
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has quite a few options when it comes to tighthead.
Between Frans Malherbe's World Cup experience, Wilco Louw's obvious scrummaging promise and Thomas du Toit growing as a No 3 (there's also Trevor Nyakane, who's regaining fitness), there are no shortages.
And while it will of course make it tougher for Koch to work his way into Test rugby again, he's confident that the “world class” props the Boks have will have a galvanising effect on his game.
“I don’t think it’s really a problem. It is a good problem to have. I think the group of tightheads we have at the moment are world class players,” he said.
“I think any coach of any team would love to have that problem. It is definitely a challenge, but we are all mates and we all want the best from each other, so we are going to push each other to the next level because the competition is so good, but that just brings out the best in the competition and the player as well."
Koch also said that his decision to head abroad and learn has definitely paid off, but admitted that the restrictions brought on by the 30-cap rule convinced him that he wouldn't play for the Boks again.
“It is my third season overseas now and I have definitely grown as a player, mentally and physically as well. I've also learnt to work harder off the ball. I think I became more mature and what they taught me that side is to work harder, something that lacked in my past.”
“As a prop I don’t think it is a bad place to go learn and personally for me it was a great move to go and improve as a player. Not only as a scrummager but also to learn a bit more of their culture as well. But for a prop it isn’t a bad shift.”
“The funny thing is there was rumours that the 30 cap rule was in place. When I signed the rule wasn’t there yet and then it came in.”
“That made me sad to be honest, knowing that I might not play for the Springboks again. As a rugby guy you want to play for the Springboks and that dream almost disappeared. It was quite an emotional time but life goes on. I just settled in there and played rugby. Luckily when Rassie came back things changed and that just gave me another opportunity.”
“I am still under contract for four more years, until 2022. I’ve signed a long term deal with them (Saracens).”