Oupa is no geriatric

2014-06-26 05:00
Teboho "Oupa" Mohoje (Gallo Images)

Port Elizabeth -  The running joke may be that Heyneke Meyer is selecting his best side for the 2007 Rugby World Cup with the number of Springbok veterans in his side, but the inclusion of Teboho "Oupa" Mohoje for Saturday's Test against Scotland may suggest otherwise.

The versatile loose forward had experienced a meteoric rise in his career and could make his Springbok debut playing off the bench against Scotland in Port Elizabeth only a few months after playing Varsity Cup rugby for Shimlas.

While a patch of grey hair in his primary school years secured him the Afrikaans nickname "oupa", meaning grandfather, the versatile forward is anything but a geriatric.

The QwaQwa-born player had taken an unconventional journey towards reaching the highest honours in South African rugby. His stars began to align when he moved with his family to Bloemfontein at the age of seven.

There, his rugby picked up at Louis Botha High School and he went on to play for Free State in the 2007 under-18 Academy and 2008 Craven Week tournaments.

Meyer said he regarded Mohoje as a strong contender for the Springbok side after he impressed both physically and in the lineouts.

"I am very excited about Oupa.

"He has really impressed me in the camp.

"I've even said to him in the first camp that I thought he was good enough to play and I want to give him a chance against Scotland," the coach said on Wednesday.

"He is big, strong and brilliant in the lineouts.

"I think he can be a really great blind side flanker.

"He has more or less the same build as Willem Alberts and I want to see what he does when he comes on."

Mohoje's rise may seem rapid but he first had to graduate from three years of playing university rugby for Shimlas before he made his Currie Cup debut for the Cheetahs in 2013.

"It didn't look possible then (playing in the Varsity Cup) but it came now -- it is a dream come true.

"I am happy that the coach has backed me so far and I really can't wait for Saturday's game," Mohoje said ahead of the Test.

"He's (Meyer) always backed me from day one at the first camp in Durban, telling me that I will get my chance.

"He doesn't believe in giving people chances, he believes in people deserving chances."

The 23-year-old was in the same physical mould of most blind-side flankers but added another dimension to the lineouts.

He had been likened to Juan Smith, regarded as one of the greatest flankers to play for South Africa, but Mohoje would be looking to make his own name when he made his debut on Saturday.

Playing ahead of Mohoje was another legend of recent years in Schalk Burger, who returned to the starting line-up for the first time since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

South Africa had a reputation of producing a plethora of world-class loose forwards and Mohoje would be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the giants who came before him.

Mohoje had taken giant leaps this year, but sometimes baby steps were required, and on Saturday his chance would come from the bench.


South Africa

15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Coenie Oosthuizen

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Oupa Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Zane Kirchner




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