Home Sport Ox Nche and Sharks ready to host Harlequins in Champions Cup opener

Ox Nche and Sharks ready to host Harlequins in Champions Cup opener

Durban — A week on from Sean Everitt, life is moving swiftly on in the Shark Tank, and prop Ox Nche says it has to when you have Harlequins in town for the Sharks’ debut in the Heineken Champions Cup, the most elite rugby competition on the planet.

“Sometimes hard things have to be done in order for us to keep getting better,” the Springbok loosehead said when asked how the team was adjusting. “The mood is great and we are working harder, we want to prove we belong in the Heineken Cup, and we want to put the Sharks brand on a pedestal.”

Director of Rugby Neil Powell is doing what Rassie Erasmus did at the Springboks in 2018 when he stepped into the head coach role, and Nche was asked by the media if there is a change in methodology.

“What stands out is that Neil is focused a lot on all of us being aligned, whether you are playing on the weekend or not,” Nche reflected. “He wants everyone involved to be on the wavelength. He brings an element of order and everyone must be ready to sacrifice for each other if the team is to do well.”

Nche and his teammates welcome to Hollywoodbets Kings Park a Harlequins team bristling with international experience, including two Springboks in Sharks old boy Andre Esterhuizen and former Stormers prop Wilco Louw.

Nche says he is looking forward to getting reacquainted with Louw, who is in a strong front row that also includes England’s Joe Marler.

“I scrummed against Wilco when he was at the Boks, and at junior level, and also when he was at the Stormers,” Nche said. “He is a big, heavy boy and has been doing well in England, but we have both grown a lot since we last scrummed against each other, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.”

If Nche gets the upper hand, it will help negate the influence of the other Springbok, Esterhuizen, who is a key part of the Quins’ attack because of his ability to generate momentum over the gain line with his freakish bulk (for a backline player).

“The gain line battle is very important, and it starts with putting pressure at the set-piece,” Nche admitted. “Quins score a lot of tries within the first three phases after a set piece and Andre is a big ball carrier and an important part of their game. We know what is coming and have to stop them.

“But Harlequins also run from anywhere on the field,” Nche warned. “They have a more attacking mindset that the teams in the URC (United Rugby Championship). They can kick when you expect them to run and they run when you expect them to kick — they are unpredictable compared to the URC teams.”

@MikeGreenaway67

IOL Sport