Ox Nché: Q&A
Retshegofaditswe ‘Tshego’ Nché – affectionately known as Ox – (born 23 July 1995 in Bloemfontein) is a South African Rugby Union Player, currently playing Currie Cup and Super Rugby in the position of prop for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. He’s also just recently been called up as a member of the South African national team, the Springboks.
Ox attributes a large portion of his success to the Toyota Cheetahs Academy, a development centre for budding rugby stars which was established in 2015 with the aim of developing the individual as well as position-specific players. Junior players are also introduced to the Toyota Cheetahs’ playing philosophies, style of play, coaching philosophies as well as the culture and value systems of the team, thereby assisting players in their transformation from junior to senior rugby. The Toyota Cheetahs Academy is currently coaching 60 players across three age groups (Under 19, Under 20 and Under 21).
We had a chat to Ox to tell us more about his background, career and how he started his impossible.
Who were your rugby role models growing up?
Ox: I have always looked up to players like Beast, but recently our scrum coach (Daan Human) at the Toyota Cheetahs (Daan Human) is a real inspiration and role model to me.
What was it like playing in the PRO14 this season and what did you make of your personal form?
Ox: It was a fantastic experience. Getting to travel to places like Edinburgh and Cardiff (holy ground for rugby fans) was amazing. I felt that my form in the PRO14s was pretty good and we played some v competent rugby. I’ve also been fortunate to be fit and healthy during most of the season, always a blessing when the injuries stay away.
What are the major differences between playing in the PRO14 and in Super Rugby, and would you like to see other SA teams follow suit and move north?
Ox: You know of course that we were the new boys in town. The other teams knew very little about us in the competition and this was frankly an advantage, specifically playing at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. When it comes to Super Rugby, you must remember that the pace is a bit faster, but for our forwards, the hard grind upfront in the PRO14 was an enjoyable challenge. There are naturally other things to consider – the weather in the UK is always a factor and playing on synthetic pitches was also a new experience for me. I can see other local teams following us into the PRO14 in the future. It would also make for more local derby games if one or more teams from SA join us.
What about your future? At 22-years of age, a long Springbok career is surely your aim in the years ahead…
Ox: I always focus on improving myself, doesn’t matter what competition I play in. Right now, I’m excited to have been selected for the Springboks and to get my first Springbok Cap. But rugby is sometimes a funny game, so you can’t plan too far ahead. At the moment, I’m just looking forward to a good pre-season with the Toyota Cheetahs and the start of the next PRO14 competition in September.
How important has it become for modern-day props to have more to their game than just scrumming?
Ox: Has handling, defense and fitness become equally important? Absolutely. I love running with the ball and contributing on the defense. These are some of my strengths I feel. It is, however, very important that you do your basics very well like scrumming, line-out support etc. Especially in the PRO14, you’ll be caught out quickly if you are not doing the basics well.
How has the Toyota Cheetah Academy been a part of your career and journey?
Ox: As a Bloem boy it was always the plan to one day play for the Toyota Cheetahs. Being introduced to the Toyota Cheetahs Academy at the tender age of 18, not only gave me the opportunity to develop my skills, but also to work with great coaches. In addition to teaching me rugby skills, it also equipped me with important life skills. Coming from school, the Toyota Cheetahs Academy was the place where young guys got the opportunity to learn from seasoned professional players.
How has the Toyota Cheetahs’ Academy enabled and helped you start your impossible?
Ox: Well, it basically kick-started my career. While at the academy, I got the opportunity to play firstly for the Shimlas (University of the Free State). Then it was on to a number of stints with the Toyota Cheetahs – the Under19 and Under 21 teams were a springboard to greater things and ultimately helped me to get selected for the SA Under 20 team. The academy prepared me to play for South Africa at a junior level. It also paved the way for me to make the step up in to the senior professional world of rugby where I was fortunate to win the Currie Cup with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs in 2016 – a privilege I don’t take lightly.