Racing power and staple Bomb Squad Trevor Nyakane is ready to destroy Sale’s Euro hopes

As an apprentice, Trevor Nyakane has always had an eye for gold. He often spent the day working with his father, Norman, identifying precious metals at a local mine in Gravelotte, South Africa.

“My dad worked in a mining plant,” he says. “It was close to Kruger Park so you could drive through so many game reserves upon entry. On the way, you could see all the animals: lions, buffalos, rhinoceros, bushes, giraffes, zebras, springboks. The only one you didn’t see was a leopard.

“Dad was testing mining samples to see if there was gold or antimony or that sort of thing.” When he started out he didn’t have any qualifications, he just studied on the job. He took samples, put them in a laboratory and let them know what it was.

Trevor Nyakane's job is to wreak havoc as Racing 92 faces a Champions Cup sale

Trevor Nyakane’s job is to wreak havoc as Racing 92 faces a Champions Cup sale

“The office where he worked was interesting to me because I visited him and watched him mix things up, saw him cook. It was fun to watch as a kid. However, it was not good for his health. He lost all his teeth due to exposure.

At a nearby elementary school, Nyakane collected cutlery in the form of medals and trophies. Growing up with an apartheid hangover of the nineties, he became a gifted sprinter. He raced barefoot on the gravel of the local “black school”.

“It was at a time when the” black schools “could not compete with the” white schools “. When something changed, my primary school was allowed to race against a second school. Then the principal of Gravelotte told my parents that he wanted me to come to this school for athletics.

Sport was Nyakane’s ticket to great times. He lived in the countryside and his mom Zondi made ends meet selling tomatoes, but he soon dreamed of traveling the world as a rugby player.

Trevor Nyakane (right) was a famous name in the winning Bomb Squad.  in South Africa

Trevor Nyakane (right) was a famous name in the winning Bomb Squad. in South Africa

“It was a tiny school,” he says. We lived in a complex house supplied by the mine, and there were other mining kids there as well. There were maybe five or six guys who were good at rugby, and the director could find other kids to fill the team.

“Since I used to sprint, I used to play downtown when we had the ball. They just gave me the ball and said, “Trevor, go!” I was a nice guy! When there was an opponent’s ball, I was propping up and they were like, “Okay, Trevor, now go get the ball!” Fortunately, I got a scholarship to high school because of rugby and athletics, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to afford the fees. When I grew up, I started eating too much. I was putting on weight while looking at the cupcake. Suddenly I was getting bigger and bigger and bigger… and here I am!

Weighing 19, the 33-year-old has built a reputation as one of rugby’s most successful scrummags.

He is a famous name in the victorious Bomb Squad in South Africa, earning the winner’s medal at the 2019 World Cup. His solid 5-foot-8-inch body shape helped Springbox defeat the Lions last year, with pictures of Nyakane sticking out his tongue after scrum destruction.

The 33-year-old has built a reputation as one of the most successful rugby scrummangers

The 33-year-old has built a reputation as one of the most successful rugby scrummangers

“Being in the Bomb Squad is about causing as much havoc as possible,” he says. “Literally, this is the message you are getting. Beginners try to deal the damage to a certain extent, and then Bomb Squad has 20 to 30 minutes to put in the same effort as if you were starting the game. Our mentality, whether it’s a brawl, setting up pieces of a game, or attacking, is to put in double energy because you’re on half the time.

“Whatever you get your hands on you have to tear down. It must be visible to the public. You have to empty the tank in 30 minutes. When you look at your stats, your speed will be higher if you step off the bench. It’s as tiring as starting a game. You pick up the pace and try to tear it down.

However, like some Kruger Park species, scrub purists are under threat. Attacking the five meter scrums has been replaced by the goal line coming off and the prop work has been reduced. Writing on The Mail on Sunday, coach Rassie Erasmus called on World Rugby to salvage an established position by introducing specialist referees.

Sale of Nyakane's Racing 92 team in Sunday's Champions Cup quarter-finals

Sale of Nyakane’s Racing 92 team in Sunday’s Champions Cup quarter-finals

“I read the article,” says Nyakane. “For us, as tight forwards, our job is to give the guys a good ball with quick feet so they can pass and kick. People don’t realize sometimes, but what these guys are doing takes an effort on the part of the guys in front to put their head in the dark places and give them that ball. Winning scrum, dominating the maul, hitting someone hard on the tray gives me as much pleasure as when a guy tries.

He added: “I’ve talked to Duane Vermeulen before about how scrum is such a mess at times. There was some guesswork. I asked, “Don’t you think it would be better to have someone sitting up there looking at all angles and calling?” You see the scrums fall. It would make a difference, but hey, it’s not my job. My job is to just go out and do it.

Meanwhile, Nyakane’s task is to wreak havoc in the hustle and bustle of Europe. In December, he signed a contract with Racing 92 and is waiting for sale in the Champions Cup quarter-finals at La Defense Arena.

“The guys were joking that this is a race against South Africa,” he says. “It will be interesting to play against a lot of my teammates.”

And if all goes to plan, he might return to South Africa this summer with more valuable cutlery.

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