Bok mates Koch and Nyakane prepare to lock horns in French derby

"Our friendship is way stronger than I've had with anyone else in my position."


The Parisian derby on Sunday could be decisive as Stade Francais and Racing 92 battle to reach the French Top 14 play-offs but it will be personally  significant for two Rugby World Cup winning Springboks.

Stade Francais’ Vincent Koch and Racing’s Trevor Nyakane were two of a trio of tight-head props competing for playing time as South Africa clinched the Webb Ellis trophy in Japan four years ago. 

Koch said he had a special bond with Nyakane.

Springbok player Trevor Nyakane
Trevor Nyakane stretches during a Springbok training session. Picture: Gallo Images

“I love him as a person, as a rugby player but our friendship is way stronger than I’ve had with anyone else in my position,” Koch told AFP.

“If he plays I back him 100%, I’ll prepare and do whatever I need to for him to have the best game of his life and he does the same thing for me. 

“It will be nice to see him and I can guarantee he’ll crack up a few jokes on the field,” Koch added.

Koch, who turned 33 last week, headed to the French capital in October after his English side Wasps went into administration.

His Rugby Championship commitments meant he never played for Coventry-based club after arriving in the off-season from Saracens, where he spent six seasons.

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“I joined them after international duty and in the two weeks I was at Wasps, everything went sideways,” Koch said.

“I was worrying about where my next pay cheque would come from. 

“Not just the pay cheque but I really enjoy playing rugby and I was thinking ‘When will my next game be? When will I be on the pitch again?’.

“Providing for my family was the most worrying thing.

“It was a stressful time but everything worked out,” he added.

‘Unbelievable Six Nations’

This year’s World Cup starts on September 8 with hosts France and newly crowned Six Nations Grand Slam champions Ireland as well as the Boks among the favourites.

Scotland also impressed during the campaign and are fifth in the world rankings.

“It was an unbelievable Six Nations. France and Ireland are the two stand-out teams,” Koch said. 

“It’s the first one I’ve watched in a few years by focusing on other teams prior to the World Cup a little bit more.

“It’s going to be a massive World Cup to see us, Ireland and Scotland in one pool. It will be quite interesting to see,” he added.

On Sunday, Koch’s club, who have slipped to third in the Top14 table, will host Racing, who are without an away win since December but are still one victory out of the playoff places. 

Stade claimed the last of their 14 French league titles in 2015 under coach Gonzalo Quesada, who returned to Stade Jean-Bouin three years ago.

“We did lose our second spot but our goal is to win the Top 14,” Koch said with six games left of the regular season.

“The culture is growing. Everyone brought into that and the plan of what the coaches expect from us. 

“Things have clicked this year,” he added.

Elsewhere this weekend, the majority of France’s Six Nations squad will be rested before the last 16 of the Champions Cup next week.

The health of French domestic rugby will be highlighted on Saturday as Bayonne host Pau at a sold-out 40,000-capacity Reale Arena in San Sebastian.

Later, La Rochelle travel to Bordeaux-Begles in front of another full house with 42,000 people expected at the town’s football ground, the Matmut Atlantique.

Fixtures (SA times)

Saturday

Castres v Toulouse (4pm), Lyon v Toulon, Perpignan v Montpellier, Clermont v Brive, Bayonne v Pau (6pm), Bordeaux-Begles v La Rochelle (10.05pm)

Sunday

Stade Francais v Racing 92 (10.05pm)

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