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Ox ready to wrestle with a Bear

Sharks and Springboks’ World Cup hero Retshegofaditswe Nché did not attempt to conceal his appreciation for French sweet treats – or cake, if you like.

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After savouring the best of the Gallic delectables during the Boks’ march to a fourth World Cup title in September and October, this week he gets to compare the English entremets with those from across the English Channel.

For a scrum beast with a confessed aversion to salads, that is not the main reason for his visit to London.

He is there to help the Sharks become the first South African team to win a European Professional Club Rugby title when they face off against England’s Gloucester in the Challenge Cup Final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Friday.

The 28-year-old front row powerhouse compared the build-up to Friday’s encounter with the same intensity he experienced ahead of the global Grand Finale in Paris in October.

“It is a serious game,” he told @rugby365com.

“It is something we have never done as a union,” he said of being the first SA side in an EPCR Final, adding: “It’s going to be a big challenge for us.

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“We are approaching it with the same intensity and seriousness, because we could be the first team to win a European title.

“For us, it would be an amazing reward if we did it.”

With fellow World Cup winners in hooker Bongi Mbonambi – who captained the national team at times in the World Cup – and second row forward Eben Etzebeth, the Sharks have an abundance of experience and a core leadership group to fall back on.

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He said the key would be to keep the younger players calm and get the best out of their skills.

“Our biggest task is to ensure they don’t become overawed by the occasion,” he said.

Turning to his position and own responsibility, he admitted that the scrums would be a real challenge.

Most likely to oppose the Bok star in the set pieces is former Russian wrestling champion Kirill Gotovtsev.

Previously a freestyle wrestler and a bronze medallist of the 2010 Russian Championship, the Ruski was also a brakeman in bobsleigh.

Unlike the compact frame of Nché – 1.75 metres and 117 kilograms – Gotovtsev is more athletic in stature – 1.88 metres and 112 kilograms.

It will not be the first time he fronts up to a towering opponent in a high-profile encounter.

“I see he is pretty much a state champion, but fortunately we don’t have to wrestle – we will just scrum,” the Bok rock said.

“This could be a very humbling sport.

“That will be a good challenge to scrum against a guy like that, who captained the Russian national team.

“The Gloucester scrum is going to be a big challenge, but it is one we are looking forward to.

“They are not playing in a final because they got lucky; you can see the amount of hard work they put in.”

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: @ChallengeCup_

Challenge Cup road to the Final

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