Durban - When Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira bowed out with a roar with a Man of the Match performance in the 2019 World Cup final, the favourite to step into his massive boots was Steven Kitshoff, but instead it is a fellow Shark who has been given the honour.
Retshegofaditswe Nché, or ‘Ox’ to his mates, has mostly been wearing the No 1 jersey that belonged to ’The Beast’ between 2008 and 2019, a period in which the former Zimbabwean won 117 caps for his adopted country, and he knows it is a heck of a legacy he has to continue for the Springboks.
Nche, speaking on the eve of the Boks’ match against Scotland in Edinburgh tomorrow, says he goes to bed every night aware of the responsibility on his shoulders.
“It’s a massive honour for me,” the 26-year-old said of taking over from Mtawarira.
“If you look at a guy like Beast who was playing before me and look at where he left the jersey … he made sure that whoever comes afterwards has very big shoes to fill.
“It’s also a challenge because I have to make sure in my journey and with the opportunities that I get that I leave it in a much better place as well. Whatever I do, wherever I play, how I play should be to leave the jersey in a better place. That’s really important and I need to make the most of every opportunity.”
His next opportunity is against a Scotland scrum that is doing wonders under former Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers, who is now on the staff of head coach Gregor Townsend.
The Scottish scrum came out on top in Australia’s 15-13 defeat at Murrayfield last week.
It sets up an intriguing battle with the Bok pack, who last week demolished Wales in the set scrums and in their previous match dominated the All Blacks.
There is a feeling that the team that wins the set-piece battle tomorrow will win the match.
Nche said the Boks were ready for whatever the Scots throw at them.
“Honestly, it will be a heck of a battle,” Nche said.
“Their scrum coach is Pieter de Villiers and I know from personal experience that he is very good. I worked with him in my Under-20 year and with SA Schools.
“You can see it from how well they did against Australia. We are definitely expecting a tough challenge. They have a lot of pride in their set-piece and mauling and have gotten a lot of reward from that. But we have done our prep and will man up to the challenge.”
Nche said that the South African flavour to the Scottish pack will make no difference to how the Boks rise to that challenge.
“I wouldn’t say it’s giving us any extra motivation (that they are playing against South Africans),” Nche said.
“We definitely have a plan against their pack. It isn’t against one individual, but it’s the entire pack. We as South Africans have pride in our physicality. We have eight South
Africans in our pack and we are against eight Scottish guys.
“We don’t see it as Scottish guys plus Pierre (Schoeman) and Oli (Kebble). We simply see it as eight Scottish guys versus eight South Africans. We just want to exert our plan on to them.”