Bok star on his French lifeline

Springbok tighthead prop Vincent Koch is relishing his move to Top 14 club Stade Francais, after his disappointing stint at Wasps.

Wasps’ financial meltdown left the club in tatters and booted out of the English Premiership, leaving players scrambling for new employers.

Some, like Koch, have rebounded in fine form in the French top flight, where life has proved to be different from that in Coventry.

The 32-year-old ran out for South Africa against Italy in Genoa on 19 November. The next day he was on a plane back to his homeland to finalise his visa for France having bagged a contract with Stade Francais.

No time was lost as the Bok anchor touched down in Paris to make his Top 14 debut three days later in a narrow defeat by Toulon.

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It was a true baptism of fire for the 2019 World Cup winner after just a handful of training sessions and unable to converse in the language of Moliere. “I could just say ‘hello’ pretty much,” Koch told AFP.

“Everything came so quick” after Wasps were put into administration in mid-October, he added.

“When you start playing professional rugby, you never think that’s something that could ever happen to you.”

After six seasons at Saracens, Koch was laid off by Wasps without having even played a single game in the colours of his new club.

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“It put a lot of pressure on myself, on my family,” he said. “I had two weeks to try to sort things out before I joined up with the Springboks.

“In that two weeks I had to look for a new contract, try to figure out what the future held for me and then move everything from my house because I couldn’t stay there.

“I had to get someone to move my house, stop all my debit orders, TV, the WiFi… Trying to get out of my housing lease as well.”

Koch, though, has opted to highlight the positive over the negative from a situation out of the players’ control, calling it an “unbelievable journey” for him, his partner and young child.

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“It’s definitely better than Coventry so we’ll definitely make good memories here,” Koch said of his new life in the French capital.

“Some day in life, you get to sit down and reflect on what happened. We can actually tick a box and say, listen, we had an unbelievable time in Paris, in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

“I always make a joke saying there’s worst places to be in the world than Paris.”

© Agence France-Presse

Photo: @SFParisRugby/Twitter

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