IT HAS been a “dream” few weeks for Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje as he continues his meteoric rise.
The dream peaked on Tuesday when Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer told the flanker that he would be part of the Springbok match-day squad against Scotland, at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday. After getting the news, the first thing Mohoje did was call home to tell the “pillar” — as he calls his father — and his family he would be wearing the No 20 Springbok jersey this weekend.
“They are coming down from the Free State to watch the game here,” an excited Mohoje said.
Just last year the 23-year-old was playing Varsity Cup rugby as captain of the University of Free State Shimlas side.
Now the lock-cum-flanker is on the brink of making his Bok debut should coach Meyer bring him on this weekend.
He is one of 13 changes Meyer made to the side that narrowly beat Wales last weekend.
When Mohoje made his Super Rugby debut for the Cheetahs earlier this year, few suspected he would be donning the green and gold jersey a few months later.
“This is a dream come true. I can’t wait to get my chance and get onto the field,” he said on Wednesday. “It did not look possible then (while playing Varsity Cup) that I would be here. I’m now going to grab my chance. I’m just glad that the coach (Meyer) backed me all along. I’ve been looking forward to this day.”
The versatile forward, who plays both loose forward and lock, handled his first Springbok press conference with the same ease and confidence he displays on the field. Mohoje is one of five uncapped players Meyer has named in his 23-man squad.
The coach confirmed his belief in the Qwa Qwa-born player and could not hide his excitement at seeing the 1.93m tall and 107kg forward in action.
“I’m really excited about Oupa. He has really impressed me in camp. I even said to him that I think he’s good enough to play and I want to give him a chance against Scotland. He’s big, strong and brilliant in the lineout. I think he can be a really great opensider. He’s more or less the same build as Willem (Alberts),” said Meyer.
Of the new caps, it is only flyhalf Handre Pollard who will be making his debut in the starting XV. Others on the bench are prop Marcel van der Merwe, Sharks lock Stephan Lewies, who joined the squad this week only after the injury of Flip van der Merwe, and Lions No 10 Marnitz Boshoff.
Meyer showered Pollard with praise, hinting that the pivot has the potential to be one of the best flyhalves in the world.
“Handre is a great player. I followed his career since he was under-16. He would have been in the squad if it wasn’t for his commitment to the South Africa under-20 side. He was always in the mix, but unfortunately we couldn’t pick him,” Meyer said.
“We have a lot of confidence in our guys, I think he is a special player. He’s really brilliant on the ball, he’s a strong and great kicker of the ball.
“If you look at the best flyhalves in the world, they all started at the ages of 19, 20, 21. He’s really mature for his age. I can’t wait to see him going,” the coach said.
The other changes in the side include Lwazi Mvovo getting a chance on the wing, while flankers Schalk Burger and Marcell Coetzee replace the injured Willem Alberts and overseas-based Francois Louw.
In the front row, Coenie Oosthuizen takes the place of Beast Mtawarira and Lood de Jager gets his first starting berth at lock. Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane and Francois Hougaard will be on the bench.
Meyer said: “Yes, there are a lot of changes, but I’m very excited. This reminds me of the time I started off and there were a lot of guys with no caps.
“Every Test match is important, and of course the World Cup is the pinnacle.
“This is a chance to look at other players who would maybe not (usually) get a chance. This is a great opportunity to see what these guys can do,” the coach explained.
Meyer says Mohoje is big, strong and brilliant in the line-out, and that the player could be a great opensider