Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Ox Nche a major injury worry ahead of Rugby Champs start

"Ox is not a guy who stops training and is normally a guy who bites the bullet (when he picks up a knock) in training."

In what could become a major blow to the Springboks in the long term, prop Ox Nche suffered what seems to be a serious injury in training on Tuesday, which could rule him out of the Rugby Championship.

Nche was named in the Springbok team announced on Tuesday to face the Wallabies in the opening game of the Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, however SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus immediately poured cold water on him being available.

‘Bit of doubt’

“Ox picked up an injury on his peck (chest) during training today. So there is a bit of doubt around him and we will find out (how serious it is) later this afternoon,” explained Erasmus.

“I am a bit worried about it to be honest with you. Ox is not a guy who stops training and is normally a guy who bites the bullet (when he picks up a knock) and goes through training.

“So I personally have a gut feeling it is a serious one because he is not the kind of guy that wouldn’t finish a training session. But we will let the medical team let us know tonight how serious it is.”

Thomas du Toit

If Nche is ruled out of the match it is expected that Thomas du Toit will slot into the starting line-up and Steven Kitshoff, who was supposed to head to New Zealand early, will stay behind and move onto the bench.

“As we said last week we were keeping some flights (aside) for Tuesday and Wednesday (for the players heading to New Zealand early) depending on how ready our team is prepared for Australia,” said Erasmus.

“With him (Ox) being in doubt Kitsie (Kitshoff) will stay behind until we have 100% clearance and if Ox is out with that peck muscle then Kitsie will move into the team.”

World Cup

Erasmus also admitted that if Nche was out for an extended period it would be a big blow to the Boks in their build up to the World Cup.

“If he’s out it is a big loss. Ox has really come into his own over the last year. The way he is contributing, not just on the field but in the scrum sessions, taking ownership of being a Springbok and understanding what we are trying to do has been immense,” said Erasmus.

“He has been finding solutions and leading in a lot of departments for us and really pushing guys like Kitsie really hard.

“We do have guys who can play both sides (loosehead and tighthead prop), like Trevor (Nyakane), Thomas (du Toit) and Vincent (Koch) can play both sides.

“But I really hope we won’t lose Ox for a long time. Especially if he misses the World Cup which would not be nice. So I hope it’s not serious because I think he’s a vital player for us currently.”