The Free State has long been regarded as a breeding ground for top South African rugby players and having a look at the current crop of Cheetahs proves that point.
The Cheetahs captain, Francois Venter, is being tipped as a possible future Springbok and week in, week out, he puts his hand up. While Oupa Mohoje, who has already made a name at international level and has just received a recall to the Springbok squad, has proven to be one of those great success stories.
Another one, who is quickly starting to become a legend in the region, is the young prop, Ox Nche. Nche only got his first taste of Super Rugby this year and was forced into making that massive leap from Varsity Cup rugby to the Southern Hemisphere’s premier rugby competition.
For years the double World Cup-winning Springbok prop, Os du Randt, was regarded as the finest to come out of Central South Africa. Ox is not far behind the legendary big man when it comes to the impact he makes on a game. Although Nche is a lot smaller than Du Randt, the prop has started the 2016 Currie Cup campaign like a racing bull.
During round one, Nche made storming runs with the ball in hand, put in tackle after tackle, and by far exceeded anyone’s expectations in the scrum at both loosehead and at tighthead. His solid performance against the Boland Cavaliers saw him winning the Man of the Match award. A week on, the front ranker delivered another strong performance and even scored a try in which he ran over 50m to crash over for the homeside against the Blue Bulls.
While the Free State Cheetahs outclassed the men from Pretoria for a brilliant 43-20 win, many of the team’s players shone, but once again it was Nche who was named Man of the Match. The Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, didn’t mince his words when talking about the prop during the post-match press conference.
“It’s an amazing competition and it shows just how much talent there is in South African rugby. A lot of this talent will come through the ranks, so we have to play the youngster so that he can come through. Otherwise we don’t see players such as Ox. He has once again proven that he can scrum, he can handle a ball and can play great rugby.”
Perhaps one of the most important things regarding Nche is that it’s plain to see he is enjoying his rugby and he has truly made the most of his opportunity to live the dream. To call on Allister Coetzee to add Nche to the Springbok setup may be slightly premature, but with the way he is playing now, it’s not of a matter of if, but a matter of when. – MORGAN PIEK