Thaba ‘Nchu’s first Springbok a reminder of possibilities

  • By Kate Nokwe

  • 20th September 2023

Thaba ‘Nchu’s first Springbok a reminder of possibilities

He may not have started out as such, but Springbok prop Ox Nché is now something of a ‘North Star' to many from his rural community.

Retshegofaditswe, or Tshego as he would be known in Thaba’ Nchu, is living proof of what is achievable despite one's circumstances.

Located 65 kilometres outside of Bloemfontein, Thaba’ Nchu has produced its first World Cup player in the 36 years since the first event in New Zealand. 

“To be the first person in my community to reach such a milestone it means a lot. It just shows that nothing is really impossible," he told SABC Sport

The burly front-rower made his World Cup debut off the bench against Scotland in round one of the 2023 World Cup before starting against Romania. 

Nché believes his journey to the 2023 Rugby World Cup should serve as a reminder to young people that all dreams are worth pursuing.

"I'm hoping I'm inspiring kids back home in Thaba' Nchu to actually pursue their dreams in whatever career they want. It doesn't matter if becoming doctors, or in sports, or whatever they want to do, that they can actually achieve it, it doesn't matter where they come from." 

Despite his birthplace, the loosehead’s path to international rugby is similar to that of many players who have worn the famous green and gold. SA Schools, Varsity Cup, Junior Boks, provincial rugby (with the Cheetahs and later the Sharks) and South Africa ‘A’.

Nché, however, had to wait another year for his first call-up. New Bok coach Rassie Erasmus was forced to split his squad for the match against Wales in Washington DC and the home match against England seven days later. The youngster started for the ‘B’ team that lost to Wales. 

And with Steven Kitshoff, Beast Mtawarira and Thomas du Toit not putting a foot wrong, the then 24-year-old missed out on the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, which was already part of his five-year plan.

“Since my 2018 debut, I told myself I had to give my best just to make the 2019 squad”, he confessed.

While failing to reach such a milestone can be a stab in the heart for many, for Nché it was an opportunity for introspection.

“I like to look inward a lot. So I asked ‘The guys that went to the World Cup, what are they actually good at and what I can still work on?’ And that’s what kept me on the up. 

“If I’m not as good as them, then I need to be better. That’s what kept me focused.” 

As the old saying goes, "the rest is history", as Nché will be part of the much-discussed seven-one split bench against world number Ireland on Saturday.