Cheetahs prop Trevor Nyakane has credited Springbok legend Os du Randt for his elevation into the South African side after he was named as one of five debutantes for the opening match of the Incoming Series against Italy on Saturday.
“Working with Os has been priceless,” Nyakane said of his scrum coach Du Randt, a double World Cup-winner with 79 national caps.
“He’s been a huge influence on my career. I listen to everything he says. Sometimes at training he literally goes into a position to show you what he’s talking about, so he’s taught me a lot.
“I’m still hoping to learn a lot more from him. I’m really grateful to him.”
The 24-year-old would play off the bench against the Azzurri in Durban after an outstanding Super Rugby season for his franchise, who were currently among the front-runners in the competition.
Nyakane, who spent most of his life in Tzaneen before his move to the Free State, was joined in coach Heyneke Meyer’s match-day 23 by uncapped Cheetahs team-mate Willie le Roux, and the Blue Bulls trio of scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, loose forward Arno Botha and rising young midfield star Jan Serfontein.
“It’s really exciting to have this opportunity to represent my country,” Nyakane said.
“It’s been a long season, working hard and trying to do my best. Finally it’s working out, so I’m very excited about it.”
Vermaak, 28, and Le Roux, 23 — who are both in the starting XV — have had superb seasons for their clubs.
Vermaak’s debut had been a long time coming after he was included in the Bok squad last year.
“Being with them last year, getting to know the calls, getting to know the structures and everything made it very easy for me coming into the set-up this year,” Vermaak said.
He was also relishing the prospect of playing alongside five other Bulls’ players.
“It makes a huge difference (playing alongside familiar faces),” he added. “Morne Steyn has played 42 tests and he’s got a calm head on his shoulders. I’m just looking forward to making my debut next to him.”
Another player making a debut of a different kind was centre JJ Engelbrecht, who would make his first start after winning his only previous cap as a substitute against Argentina in Cape Town last year.
The 24-year-old was looking forward to the “amazing experience” of starting for the first time and also lining up in midfield with captain Jean de Villiers.
“Jean has so many caps and a lot of experience, so playing next to him will be great,” Engelbrecht said.
“When I was at school I use to watch him and loved the way he played. So I look forward to it.”