To understand the transformation of the Cell C Sharks scrum, there are few better to ask than prop Ox Nche who has quickly become a fan favourite and a devastating front rower for the Black & White.
The dark art of scrumming is a secret known to few, but for the spectator, it’s important to understand exactly what is happening in that facet of the game.
“We’ve come up with a good system, helped by a good relationship with the coaches, Etienne Fynn previously and now [Georgian] Akvsenti Giorgadze,” he explains.
“His philosophy is that it’s a team effort from all eight guys in the pack, working on your shape and technique. He’s helped us bring a lot of confidence to the pack.”
The other important aspect Giorgadze is firm on is attitude.
“He expects forwards to be forwards,” Nche adds. “We have a good relationship with him and he tries to bring the best out of each of us.”
Reflecting on Saturday’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship win over the Emirates Lions, he acknowledges that scrumming was an area they knew the Lions would come hard at them.
“They average four to five scrum penalties per game and in this match we got two and they got two, so it was pretty even. We’re really happy with that. It was our first match back and we can only get better from here.”
Having a tight five that has been together for a while, building confidence as a group has also benefitted what the pack is able to deliver.
“From the guys who are starting to those coming off the bench, you don’t see much of a difference and that’s because we’ve been working so hard together with everyone putting in the same effort. We’re seeing that in the game.”
Being a team game, for the backline to function as well as it does requires a huge effort from the forwards. With that box ticked, it’s left to the backline to devastate the opposition.
“We have some really special backs, amongst the best in the world, loads of talent, it’s amazing. It’s good to get the ball to them and see what they can do.
“Our aim is to play exciting rugby and looking back to Super Rugby in 2020, we were playing well and if we can get close to that or even get better, it would be great.”
On Saturday, the Cell C Sharks welcome the DHL Stormers to Hollywoodbets Kings Park in the coastal derby. The Cape Town side pulled off a coup by defeating the Vodacom Bulls 30-26 at Loftus and will come to Durban full of confidence.
“Everyone probably expected the Bulls to come out on top at their home, but we were shocked at the end of the first half when the Stormers were leading 18-nil,” he says.
“It’s going to be a good challenge this weekend. We’ve all played each other enough lately to know that whoever pitches up and executes their plan the best will come out on top.
“It’s going to be a good challenge, they will come here on a high after their win and we’ll have to man up and be at our best. We have to back up last week’s win with another one.
“And it’s the fist time I’ll be playing for the Cell C Sharks at home in front of fans, so it’s going to be a major one for me personally.”