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Trevor Nyakane. (Getty Images)
Springbok prop Trevor Nyakane said he moved to French club Racing 92 because he needed a new “challenge” before a potential debut for his new side on Saturday.
Tighthead Nyakane, 32, left the Bulls last month before spending New Year’s Eve in isolation alongside his family in a Parisian hotel to follow Covid-19 travel regulations after arrival from South Africa.
Ahead of three November Tests, Nyakane watched Racing lose to Montpellier in the Top 14 at their 32 000-capacity indoor La Defense Arena before receiving a call from his future employers.
“I was sitting at the stadium with Bongi Mbonambi (South Africa hooker) and I said if I had to leave South Africa and go to a club, this is the kind of place I’d like to go to,” Nyakane told AFP on Monday.
“After coming here and seeing the facilities, the vibe at the stadium, the way the team carries itself it’s something I wanted as a new challenge for myself.
“I’m relishing that, so I’m trying my best to learn as much as I can,” he added.
The 121kg front-rower won the last of his 53 caps in November’s one-point defeat by England, in a re-run of the 2019 Rugby World Cup final.
“We said we wanted to be number one in the world and we got knocked back to number two but now we’re back to number one,” he said.
“When you look at where we wanted to be as Springboks, we’re exactly where we wanted to be.”
In less than two years’ time the World Cup will be held in Nyakane’s adopted country and the former Cheetahs forward predicts the hosts will be among the favourites, especially after beating New Zealand in the autumn.
“If you look at France, they’ve been outstanding in the last couple of months. They’ve been ridiculous,” he said.
“If you’re going to bring the World Cup to their backyard, it’s not going to be easy for anyone to come and take it away.”
This weekend, Nyakane could make his Racing bow in the European Champions Cup trip to Welsh region the Ospreys.
The Parisians have been losing finalists three times since 2016 and club president Jacky Lorenzetti has repeatedly said it’s a title he wants to lift.
“I’ve watched from the outside and it is a big deal. I don’t think you can sugar coat that,” Nyakane said.
“Sometimes we say ‘we play for the love of the game’. But it’s not nice to play for the love of the game if you’re always last so I want as many trophies as possible.
“I might be selfish, but that’s why I play. For me it’s one of the trophies I would love to have in the cabinet.”
The weekend’s games are expected to go ahead despite reports claiming English and Welsh sides were threatening to boycott due to strict travel rules on entering France.
Those restrictions are set to be loosened with holders Toulouse heading to Wasps but they could be without world player of the year Antoine Dupont who has missed three weeks of training.
Fixtures (SA times):
Cardiff (WAL) v Harlequins (ENG), Castres (FRA) v Munster (IRL) (both 22:00)
Wasps (ENG) v Toulouse (FRA) (15:00), Ospreys (WAL) v Racing 92 (FRA), Connacht (IRL) v Leicester Tigers (ENG) (both 17:15), La Rochelle (ENG) v Bath (ENG), Exeter Chiefs (ENG) v Glasgow Warriors (SCO) (both 19:30), Bristol Bears (ENG) v Stade Francais (FRA) (22:00)
Leinster (IRL) v Montpellier (FRA) (15:00), Northampton Saints (ENG) v Ulster Rugby (IRL), Bordeaux-Begles (FRA) v Scarlets (WAL) (both 17:15), Clermont (FRA) v Sale Sharks (ENG) (19:30)