Edinburgh Rugby’s Pierre Schoeman is as popular in South Africa as he was when playing for the Vodacom Bulls. He is also respected in South African rugby circles, despite making Scotland his home.
Schoeman made a conscious decision to pursue a new challenge in Scotland and his intention when arriving in Edinburgh was always to play for Scotland once eligible.
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend was always going to select a player of Schoeman’s quality and Schoeman’s Test debut was enthusiastically applauded in the South African media as reward for consistently good performances.
Schoeman and fellow South African veteran WP Nel, another one of the South Africans to have played for Scotland, anchor a potent Edinburgh pack that has commanded a presence throughout the league.
Edinburgh finished the league in seventh position but had it not been for a result or two, they could easily have finished in the top three. The margins among the Vodacom URC Final Eight play-off finalists were tight and places two to eight were only confirmed in the 18th and final round.
Schoeman, whose flaying blonde locks and bulldozing runs, quickly earned him a following at the Vodacom Bulls, comfortably won over the Edinburgh faithful who took him to heart and claimed him as one of their own.
This is a player who is loved wherever he goes.
Schoeman has embraced Edinburgh and Scotland, but never denied his passion for South Africa. It would not be inaccurate to say that the big front rower has two homes, one in the northern hemisphere and one in the south.
But when it comes to rugby, he has only one home, and that is in the front row of Edinburgh Rugby’s Vodacom URC challenge.
Schoeman acknowledged that Edinburgh Rugby would have to be at their best to beat the DHL Stormers in Cape Town, but said the entire squad had belief on the basis of what they produced against the Cell C Sharks in Durban.
Few had given Edinburgh a chance of victory but in the rain it was the Scots doing the dance as they thumped the South African hosts 21-5.
The DHL Stormers players have spoken with reverence about the quality of Schoeman and his Edinburgh teammates. The two teams drew 20-all earlier in the season and the respect on either side has been earned.
Schoeman, in addressing the media, was full of praise for the DHL Stormers players and he acknowledged the potency of the home team’s backs in scoring tries.
‘The Stormers props are going well. Steven Kitshoff speaks for himself, he is doing really well. Frans Malherbe gets paid the big bucks because he is a good tighthead and Neethling Fouche has done very well, especially this season.
‘Personally, it is nice to go against, not only big names, but world-class players. That’s how you measure yourself, that’s why we all play and train and try to get better, is to play in these big games and big moments, a quarter-final; a set piece where you go against each other, that’s where you want to be playing.”
ROAD TO THE PLAY-OFFS: EDINBURGH RUGBY (7TH)
If the Scottish capital had hosted all Vodacom United Rugby Championship matches this season, it is logical to assume Edinburgh would be hosting a quarter-final instead of migrating south to face the DHL Stormers in Cape Town.
Edinburgh lost as many home matches as Leinster and the DHL Stormers, that is to say one, and ended the regular season with a 28-11 victory against Glasgow at Murrayfield for a record seven wins and one draw in nine matches at home.
Turning their respective home grounds into a fortress pushed Leinster and the DHL Stormers to the top of the table but Edinburgh finished seventh after putting Glasgow to the sword.
Miserable away form rained on Edinburgh’s campaign as six of nine expeditions resulted in defeat. Having started the season with six wins from eight matches, Edinburgh slumped to a run of three consecutive losses at Ospreys, Leinster, Munster. After hammering Connacht at Murrayfield, Edinburgh then punctuated two more away losses with a memorable victory in Durban before salvaging their playoff dreams with home wins against Zebre and Glasgow.
Emiliano Boffelli edges flyhalf Blair Kinghorn for the honour as the fullback was the more prolific goal-kicker of the two.
Boffelli and Kinghorn each scored six tries in 12 appearances for Edinburgh, but Boffelli contributed an additional 72 points off the tee, finishing among the URC’s most accurate sharpshooters by converting almost 90 percent of his kicks at goal.
The 40-capped Argentina back scored 21 points in a big win against Connacht and 13 in the decisive win that pushed Edinburgh above Glasgow on the final standings.
Facing a crisis of confidence after away losses at Ospreys, Leinster, Munster and Glasgow, Edinburgh collected themselves for a journey to Durban where they blew the Cell C Sharks out of the water.
Heavy rain ensured water was in oversupply at Hollywoodbets Kings Park when the teams met in Round 14. And, aided by the inaccurate kicking of Cell C Sharks flyhalf Curwin Bosch and a yellow card to centre Marius Louw, Edinburgh slipped and slid to a 21-5 win thanks to tries from flyhalf Blair Kinghorn and fullback Emiliano Boffeli.
Quarter-final 2 versus DHL Stormers at DHL Stadium, Cape Town (4 June)