When Lizo Gqoboka arrived in Montpellier on a short-term deal in September 2019, he was very much the new kid in town but there was a friendly South African fellow prop and man about town who helped him out considerably in Jannie du Plessis.
Gqoboka was signed by the French club as cover for the duration of the World Cup and stayed with the good doctor and his family in the city near the Mediterranean coast, and not only did Du Plessis show him the ropes at the club, but they also spent a lot of time discussing scrummaging.
And now on Saturday the Bulls loosehead prop and the veteran Springbok tighthead will be going to town on each other if they are both on the field at the same time when the Lions visit Loftus Versfeld in the opening round of the Rainbow Cup.
“I enjoy scrumming against Jannie. I did it a lot in training at Montpellier and we played against each other in the Currie Cup semifinal in January,” Gqoboka said on Tuesday.
“So we know what each other can bring at scrum time, but with such experience, Jannie always has something in his back pocket.
“It’s difficult to scrum against a guy like him who has the attitude of always learning and getting better all the time.
“With Jannie there at the Lions, he plays a massive role in their scrum, he’s so experienced and very smart. It’s not just about power with him, you can feel it, he is very technically sound.
“So the young guys at the Lions like Carlu Sadie are really learning from him. The Lions scrum is very good, they have a good system and it’s going to be a nice challenge.”
But the Bulls scrum certainly have the credentials to win the crucial scrum battle this weekend, as they showed when they had the upper hand against the Lions in that Currie Cup semifinal and when they dominated the set-piece against the Sharks in the final.
The home side might be without Springbok tighthead Trevor Nyakane due to injury, but Mornay Smith showed his ability to step up when he performed strongly off the bench in the two decisive Currie Cup matches.
“We know we can’t relax, every scrum is going to be a war so we have to show up and concentrate,” Gqoboka said.