From the degree he studied for to how he got his famous nickname. By Jon Cardinelli
Who is Ox Nché: Ten things you should know about the Springboks prop
Ox Nché is a fans’ favourite for his powerful runs in the loose. Here is the lowdown on the South Africa front-rower’s rugby journey.
Ten things you should know about Ox Nché
1. Retshegofaditswe ‘Ox’ Nché was born on 23 July 1995.
2. The nickname ‘Ox’ is a testament to his power at the scrums and breakdowns.
The gifted prop has this, and indeed many other things, in common with former Springbok loosehead Os du Randt.
3. Nché attended HTS Louis Botha – one of the less established rugby schools in rugby-mad Bloemfontein – and starred for Free State at the U16 and U18 national tournaments.
4. He did a degree in Geography and Statistics at the University of Free State, and had the opportunity to play for the Shimlas in the Varsity Cup.
It was on the back of his performances for Shimlas, and later for the Junior Boks, that he was given a professional contract at the Cheetahs.
5. Nché made his Super Rugby debut for the Cheetahs in 2016. Even at that stage of his senior career, it was clear that he was a multi-talented front-row with the ability to link with the backs on attack and contest at the breakdown on defence.
6. The prop competed in the Currie Cup for the first time later that year. He helped Free State win the title for the first time in nine years.
He was named Currie Cup Player of the Year at SA Rugby’s annual prize-giving.
7. Opportunity knocked for the promising prop when he was drafted into the South Africa A squad and selected to face the French Barbarians in a two-game series in 2017. Despite a strong showing, Nché was made to wait another year for his first Test cap.
8. In June 2018, new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus split his squad in order to deal with the unique demands of facing Wales in Washington DC in the season opener and then England in Johannesburg seven days later.
In the end, Erasmus opted to send an experimental side to the USA while the first-choice team prepared for England in Jo’burg.
Nché was picked to start on debut for the ‘B’ side against Wales. The Boks suffered a narrow loss, and the young loosehead didn’t receive another opportunity during Erasmus’s tenure.
9. The Cheetahs were relegated from Super Rugby in late 2017. Less than three years later, they were axed from the Pro14 roster.
By 2020, however, Nché had completed a career-boosting move to the Sharks. The mobile prop thrived in the new environment, and was one of the stars over the course of a campaign that was limited to just seven matches due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Later that season, he featured in the Springbok trial game at Newlands and he added to his solitary Test cap when starting against Georgia in July 2021 before being selected to start in the first Test of the British & Irish Lions 2021 series.
10. Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, who retired from international rugby after winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, believes that Nché will go on to become one of the great Springbok looseheads.
“I just love the way he goes about his game, be it at the scrum, with ball in hand or on defence,” Mtawarira said.
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