Oupa Mohoje wants to make a bigger contribution as a ball-carrier for the Springboks against France. Photo: Gavin Barker, BackpagePix
DURBAN – There was a time when a nine-year-old Teboho Mohoje ducked his head into the rucks and mauls as a fledgling rugby loose forward, and his coach in Bloemfontein said that he hovered around like an Oupa, not Teboho.

And so the nickname was born.

As it turns out, the 26-year-old “Oupa” is still obviously anything but a veteran in the Springbok team, and today he says he will give everything to prove that he is Oupa in name only against the French in the second Test of the series against the visitors in Durban.

“I was Free State born and bred, in the town of QwaQwa, and I spent seven years there, completely unaware of the game of rugby, before my family moved to Bloemfontein,” the genial flank said.

“I am not going to bluff you and say I grew up wanting to be a Springbok,” he says. “It was only when I went to Bloemfontein and learned the game of rugby that I first had a dream of becoming a Springbok. I watched those players on TV, and I knew that I wanted to be one of them.”

It is curious that such a shy young man should have the nickname Oupa (grandfather), but he thinks it funny.

“Ah well, that is how these things happen, but the truth is I am the youngest and hungriest to learn about Springbok loose forward play, and the more I learn, the more I understand the role of a Springbok loose forward in the physical confrontation that inevitably awaits us.

Oupa Mohoje says everyone is “contributing to establishing our own team culture” at the Boks this season. Photo: Gerhard Duraan, BackpagePix

“All of us have roles to play in shutting down the French attack,” Mohoje says. “We know that they are going to come at us physically, much more than last week in Pretoria.

“Myself, Warren Whiteley and Siya Kolisi are a new loose trio in world rugby, and obviously the French have done their homework on us.

“But at the same time, we are doing our homework on our performance last week,” Mohoje continued.

“As we play more together, we will gel better, and we will be better as a unit against the French today. They are trying to work us out, and we are trying to get better, so it will be an interesting contest.”

Mohoje said that coach Allister Coetzee had encouraged him to carry the ball more today.

“Your confidence grows the more you play, and so does your understanding with your fellow forwards. And the outside backs that must have an idea of when they are going to get the ball,” the 26-year-old said.

“The coach has told me to attack more with the ball in hand. He wants me to be a carrier, especially with (injured) Duane Vermeulen out of the series,” Mohoje said. “He wants me and Warren Whiteley to combine together more than we have in the past.”

Oupa Mohoje says Warren Whiteley brings a calmness to the set-up as Springbok captain. Photo: Muzi Ntombela, BackpagePix

Mohoje said that the instruction from the coaching staff was to play the game on Springbok terms, and for the team to be proactive and not responsive.

“Allister has told us to go out here and play,” he said. “The team culture is different to last year in that this year, we have started from afresh and shut the door on last season.

“Then it was about everybody having their own say. Now we are all contributing to establishing our own team culture.

“Warren Whiteley brings a calmness to the team, and we have all bought into playing for each other to get the result the group so much wants.”

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