Ox Nche, with the ball. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX
Ox Nche, with the ball. Picture: BACKPAGEPIX

The Sharks are planning for life after Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and latest addition Retshegofaditswe “Ox” Nche has the best attributes to replace the veteran loose-head prop.

Nche will be joining the Sharks from the Cheetahs ahead of the 2020 Super Rugby tournament.

Mtawarira‚ who is taking part in his third World Cup and has more than 100 Test caps for the Springboks‚ is nearing the end of his shelf life as a front-row forward.

His form this season has been anything but on the wrong side of 30 as his strength‚ experience and adherence to basic scrumming techniques sparked an ongoing two-year revival even though Steven Kitshoff has asked serious questions from a national team perspective.

Nche‚ a Cheetahs stalwart‚ has had to make the move east in search of the Springbok jersey.

The Cheetahs are the Currie Cup champions and a reasonably competitive Pro14 outfit‚ but the 31-man Rugby World Cup squad was picked from the four Super Rugby franchises and the overseas clubs.

It is a cause for concern for the Southern Kings and the Cheetahs‚ in particular‚ as it gives off a sense that their performances will not be rewarded with national team call-ups.

This is something Bok coach Rassie Erasmus needs to look at in 2020‚ especially if some of the Cheetahs players ask uncomfortable Pro14 questions, as the competition is a difficult tournament that has routinely showed up the Cheetahs and the Kings.

Whether the Pro14 is a better and stronger competition compared to Super Rugby remains to be seen‚ but performances in the former need to be rewarded.

It makes perfect sense for Nche to move to Durban‚ where different questions will be asked of him in Super Rugby.

He has held up his scrumming end well in the Currie Cup and in the Pro14‚ but has not had the opportunity of squaring up against the likes of Wilco Louw‚ Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane.

These are the premier tight-head props who play in SA and will ask questions of Nche’s scrumming abilities.

The Pro14 teams‚ especially the Welsh and Irish sides‚ pack very good forwards‚ but with the Cheetahs not playing Super Rugby‚ Nche has not had a Springbok Super Rugby audition.

There is no doubt he is ready‚ willing and able‚ but 2020 could and should be the year where he forces the Springbok issue through the Sharks.

It will not be easy as Kitshoff and Lizo Gqoboka already have the inside lane‚ but the 24-year-old has an opportunity and time on his hands.