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Ox: It will be a heck of a battle … but Boks are up for the Scottish challenge

Siya Kolisi (captain), Ox Nche, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane of South Africa sing national anthem before the 2021 British and Irish Lions Tour first test between South Africa and BI Lions at Cape Town Stadium on 24 July 2021. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

There is a feeling that the team that wins the set-piece battle tomorrow in Edinburgh will win the match.

THERE is a joke going around that the Springboks boast the two best front rows in world rugby and tomorrow against Scotland they will be playing against the third-best South African front row in the game.

That might be pushing it – SA-born props Pierre Schoeman and Oli Kebble are respected but not yet world beaters – but what is a fact is that Scotland boast probably the best scrumming coach in the world in Pieter de Villiers, the 49-year-old from the Western Cape who played in two World Cups for France and has made a subsequent living by coaching scrumming, including a stint with the Boks under Heyneke Meyer.

The Scottish scrum has been transformed since De Villiers joined Gregor Townsend’s staff and last week Australia were given a torrid time in their 15-13 defeat at Murrayfield.

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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 in Edinburgh will win the match.

Yesterday, loosehead prop Ox Nche said the Boks were ready for whatever the Scots throw at them.

“Honestly, it will be a heck of a battle,” Nche said.

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“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.”

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Nche said that the SA flavour to the Scottish pack will make no difference to how the Boks tackle that challenge.

“I wouldn’t say it’s giving us any extra motivation (that the Boks 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 and Oli. We simply see it as eight Scottish guys versus eight South Africans. We just want to exert our plan on to them.”

Nche has established himself as the successor to Tendai Mtawarira when most thought it would be Steven Kitshoff stepping in the “Beast’s” considerable shoes as the starting No.1.

Instead, Kitshoff is part of the “bomb squad” that has been demolishing the opposition in the final quarter of matches, with Nche starting Tests against the British & Irish Lions, All Blacks, Australia and last week against Wales.

“It’s a massive honour for me, I must say,” Nche 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.

“For me, 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.”

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