Ox pleased oval ball will be in play against Russian wrestler

rugby22 May 2024 04:57
By:Gavin Rich
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Ox Nche © Gallo Images

Springbok World Cup winner Ox Nche says he feels a bit relieved that the oval ball will be in play and that it won’t just come down to a wrestling match when he fronts for the Hollywoodbets Sharks in their EPCR Challenge Cup final against Gloucester on Friday.

The English club have built up a formidable scrumming reputation lately, and Nche’s likely direct opponent, Kirill Gotovtsev, has been one of the prime reasons for that success and why so much for the ninth-placed team in the Gallagher Premiership depends on the set piece.

“It’s going to be a big challenge. In the last few games, their scrum has won 13 penalties for them, so it is going to be a challenge for us,” said Nche as the Sharks continued their buildup to a game they need to win in order to be promoted into the elite Investec Challenge Cup next season.

“It’s something we are looking forward to and I think it will be a good test. Gloucester aren’t playing in the final because they got lucky. You can see the amount of hard work they’ve put in to do well as a unit.”

Gotovtsev, a 36 year old former decorated wrestler, has started 17 games for Gloucester this year and the former captain of the Russia national team’s battle with the formidable Nche is going to play a big part in determining who gets the edge in the Challenge Cup decider at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

For his part, Nche is just happy that rugby is the angle, and he’s not being pitted against his opponent in a wrestling match. Gotovtsev won the bronze at the Russian Championships in 2010.

“I’m just happy that we don’t have to wrestle on Friday, honestly, as I see that he was pretty much a state champion. Luckily, we don’t have to wrestle, we have to scrum.”

Of course Nche has faced more celebrated opponents and after winning a Rugby World Cup winners medal with the Springboks in France last year he won’t be cowed by the challenge he faces on Friday night. But he’s also been around the block a few times and understands the truth behind that old saying that sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men can go awry. He says it’s certainly true of his field of expertise, the scrum, if you ever underestimate an opponent.

“You can never relax, not in this sport. Rugby can be a very humbling sport,” said Nche.

“I think it’s going to be a very good challenge for me, to scrum against a guy like that. He’s captained the Russian national team. He’s played in a World Cup and is a very good player.”

Fortunately for the Sharks their other current World Cup-winning prop, Vincent Koch, is available to play after recovering from an injury and, with Bongi Mbonambi also fit and probably set to lead the team in the absence of the injured regular skipper Lukhanyo Am, the Sharks will start with a full international front row. With Eben Etzebeth also fit, meaning four of the five tight forwards are World Cup winners, there will be no prizes given to anyone who guesses correctly that the Sharks are banking a lot on attaining forward dominance.