Life in France is good (although he complained the biltong is not the same as at home) judging by the sparkle in Trevor Nyakane’s eye and his lean and mean look at the Springbok hotel in Pretoria on Thursday.
The former Bulls prop joined Racing 92 at the beginning of the year and will be a useful source of information on next year’s Rugby World Cup hosts. Nyakane picked up an injury towards the end of the French season which prevented him from playing in Racing’s unsuccessful Champions Cup semi-final and Top 14 quarterfinal.
But the 33-year-old was thrilled to be able to watch the charge of the South African teams in the United Rugby Championship.
“Being in France has given me a different perspective on rugby, and I’ll be giving that information to the Springbok team. It’s lovely coming back, I feel at home, you can get biltong over there but it’s not the same!
“I was really amazed watching the URC. At the start of the competition, you had to scroll to the second page of the log to find any of the South African teams, and then we ended up with three teams in the playoffs!
“Racing play Champions Cup rugby against Leinster, so we know what they are capable of and it was really amazing for the Bulls to go there and win. It shows that there are only greener pastures for our teams,” Nyakane said.
The versatile frontranker’s focus is now on the Tests against Wales and he says the never-say-die attitude of Wayne Pivac’s side is their strongest attribute.
“Wales have a lot of experience and they never let go. Some teams you can just beat into submission, but Wales keep coming until the final whistle blows.
“They will try and impose themselves in the game, but as South Africans we are never shy of a challenge,” Nyakane said.
While Thursday’s function was to introduce the new Springbok squad to the media, who coach Jacques Nienaber described as the brokers between the team and the fans and sponsors, who he said were ultimately their employers, it was unsurprising that the players were more excited about the prospect of playing in full stadiums again.
“We’ve really missed the fans, they mean a lot to us,” Nyakane said. “We went through the Lions tour last year without any crowds, it was a good tour but we really missed the guys out there keying us up.
“I would urge all fans to purchase tickets and come out and support us, and I can assure them we will give of our best.”