Bok-stocked Sharks front-row sends ominous warning to challengers

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Bongi Mbonambi (L) with Ox Nche. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)
Bongi Mbonambi (L) with Ox Nche. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Sharks front-rowers Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit left to fine ovations from the 2 000 fans attending Saturday's game after their demolition job of the Stormers.

They may have drawn the game late through lost composure at the death but the Springbok front row sent an ominous warning to all comers with a pure exhibition of scrumming power.

Defeats to the Bulls in crucial games in 2021 exposed the Sharks' soft underbelly, especially in their tight five. But they cannot be accused of this any longer after snatching Mbonambi from the Stormers.

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Their scrum performance was one of the few shining lights that left head coach Sean Everitt beaming despite his men throwing away certain victory in the 22-all tie.

They bossed the facet of the game, forcing the Stormers into seven scrum infringements to the odd one. Rookie tighthead Sazi Sandi was often left gasping for air, so tough was the lesson.

Tighthead Du Toit, who has grown in esteem and leadership each year, made his opposite number Steven Kitshoff look fairly ordinary, something not many can achieve.

"The Stormers won four scrum penalties against the Bulls last week, so we were not taking them for granted just because we had Thomas, Ox and Bongi in the front row," Everitt said.

"Thomas has been a stand-out for us throughout the URC. He had four great games when we were in the UK and could have easily been Man-of-the-Match in all four if we got the result.

"We're pleased with where we are with him. He's learnt a lot over the past few years.

"When he returned from the Boks after coming home for a bereavement, he's been outstanding for us.

"We're happy with the form he's displaying at the moment."

Nche, who wins weekly plaudits for his Beast-style dynamism, has worn the No 1 jersey like a Spanish bull wears its horns - the opposite tighthead is his red cape.

His penchant for cake belies his ferocity of scrummaging. His pirouetted offload to Aphelele Fassi in the move that created Makazole Mapimpi's try also exposed Nche's many fascinating layers.

"Ox is very much becoming a dominant force," said Everitt.

"It does help that, when they're not here, they're all scrumming together with the Boks, so there is cohesion in the front row.

"Ox has come a long way in his development. Him and Bongi in the front row were dominant in every game they played at the end of the year."

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