First cake, then beef for Sharks’ Ox Nche ahead of mouth-watering Bulls clash

Ox Nche in action for the Sharks United Rugby Championships match against Dragons

Ox Nche in action for the Sharks United Rugby Championships match against Dragons. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Published Nov 29, 2023


The mouth-watering scrum battle between Ox Nche and Wilco Louw will be worth the admission price alone in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship showdown between the Sharks and Bulls at Loftus Versfeld. Kick-off is at 3pm.

But before we get into the intricacies of getting the right shoulder or scrumming in on the hooker, Nche had some exciting news to share on his favourite topic (okay, perhaps second-favourite, after scrums) ...

“I saw yesterday on Uber Eats that there is a new cake place near my place ... so ja, I’ve also got a nice cake there – it looks good,” the Springbok star said, smiling, when asked by Independent Media if he had had any cake since getting back to Durban after the triumphant World Cup campaign, adding that he’s had “slices of cakes”.

“I will just have a standard chocolate cake, just to have a feel of it. But I think I’ll be more adventurous later in the week,” he said.

But after all that sweet talk, Nche – first name Retshegofaditswe – got down to the serious business of preparing to face scrum giant Louw, who has been drilling looseheads all season since his return to the Bulls from English club Harlequins.

It is clear that Louw wants to get back into the Springbok squad after missing out on the World Cup, and Saturday’s clash against the Sharks will provide the ideal opportunity to catch Rassie Erasmus’ eye.

Packing down opposite him will be Nche, who made the world sit up and notice with a series of commanding displays in the set piece in France.

“It will be competitive,” the 28-yearold Nche, who has 28 Test caps, said in typically understated fashion.

“Wilco has a good reputation around his scrumming, so we have to have very good plans to neutralise that.

“They have a very good pack and have been putting teams away when it comes to the set pieces. It’s going to be a massive challenge for us, and we just have to be up for it.

“They scrum well as a unit – not just the front row. They seem to all know what the plan is and follow it well. We have to be up for it and as prepared as we can be.”

The Sharks could try to emulate the Boks’ strategy when Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane get set for a scrum against a taller front row, as the Bulls props Louw (1.85m) and Gerhard Steenekamp (1.94m) are significantly taller than opposite numbers Nche (1.73m) and Coenie Oosthuizen (1.87m) – although Sharks hooker Fez Mbatha, at 1.81m, has 3cm on Akker van der Merwe (1.78m).

The Sharks pack will hope to continue where they left off in last weekend’s 69-14 demolition of the Dragons, although the Bulls will also be confident after their 53-27 win over Connacht.

“We have our own systems at the Sharks, and I don’t think it’s really about the height (in scrums), but how you implement what you want to do,” Nche said.

“They might be tall, but they might have a system that actually works for them and puts them at an advantage.

“We just have to find a way to get around their system, break it and implement ours onto them as a forward pack. You use what you have and make it work, and use our strengths and find a way to neutralise them,” he said.

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