Unwavering Nel nears historic tally

Unwavering Nel nears historic tally

If called upon from the bench in tomorrow night's 1872 Cup derby, WP Nel will become the tenth player in Edinburgh Rugby history to make 150 appearances for the club.

From Western Province to West Lothian, It will be a historic achievement for a player that arrived in the Scottish capital back in 2012 and has, in truth, never once looked back.

Having embraced Scottish culture from the get-go, WP made his international debut for his adopted country in 2015 and has become a cornerstone of the Scottish pack, earning his 40th cap in the recent Autumn Nations Cup campaign.

A hugely popular figure in the Edinburgh Rugby squad and among the capital support, Nel's consistency at set-piece time has seen the prop develop into one of world rugby's premier tight heads.

Simply put, when you're packing down against WP, it's going to be a difficult evening.

To celebrate WP's near-historic achievement, we asked those who know him best - his teammates - to share their memories and discuss the tight head's impact on the capital club.

Stuart McInally

"One of my earliest memories of WP was during an away trip when I was only 22. During a team walkthrough, he asked how old I was and he was so shocked I was that young! He guessed my age at 27... WP was only 26 at the time!

"Who could forget that try against Leinster from 40m out? Or his wonderful hands to put me away for a try against Toulon at home in 2018.

"But what really impresses me about WP is his scrummaging and I know it’s what he prides himself on. When I’ve got WP next to me, I know the scrum won’t go backwards.

"One word to describe WP is loyal. Massive congrats WP on the 150, we can’t wait to take the field with you!"

Grant Gilchrist

"My first impressions of WP were probably similar to everyone at the club - what a player! He was a pretty quiet man that just did all of his talking on the pitch!

"The try from the halfway line against Leinster in the early days was special. I remember being just outside him when he made the break and I couldn’t keep up with the big man.

"Other brilliant memories are being behind him when he’s dominating scrums... that’s happened one or two times over the years!

"One word to describe WP is just legend! Congrats on such a massive achievement. It’s been an absolute pleasure playing alongside you in so many of those games and look forward to many more!"

Hamish Watson

"I remember the signing video being released and his highlight reel was insane! This young - back then - South African prop that scored a ridiculous amount of tries and had a highlight reel a centre would be happy with.

"When he first joined the club he used to be in the Academy changing room with the young lads, most new signings did until they got a bit more comfortable.

"So we all got to know WP from the off and you could really tell he was a great, genuine guy. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that his English has also got loads better since then!

"My standout memory of WP is of course his 40m try against Leinster. A try no Edinburgh fan will ever forget. That front row of himself Fordy and Dicko back in 2015 was unreal.

"I remember you would pack down for a scrum knowing that you're going to win a penalty! To be fair, not much has changed!

"Willem, I’m so happy you and your family chose to make Edinburgh your club and home. It is a pleasure to run out on the field with you whether that’s representing Edinburgh or Scotland.

"Congratulations on 150 and hopefully there’s still another 50 in you yet!"

Pierre Schoeman

"My first memories of WP are pretty simple. A big, strong friendly farmer and great scrummager and ball carrier. He ran in tries in for the Cheetahs, and then Edinburgh, from 60m out!

"Personally I will be honest and say WP is the best tight head I have ever scrummed against. He is naturally so strong and technically so experienced and clever.

"At training once when I just got at Edinburgh, every time I had to go against the big man he would pin me down and both our faces will be covered in mud and grass.

"And Coach Cockers will say if the scrum falls again, we will do bear crawl conditioning - but with WP there is no mutual agreements, he won’t let a young calf mess with the big old bull!

"So down we went again and we had to do to bear crawl conditioning and that session, it just continued!

"It takes guts to come over from South Africa and play for a decade North of the wall. But it takes a special man to make a difference for Edinburgh and Scotland and Weeps has made a massive success of his career.

"Off the pitch he is a great friend, and he and his family are great people. WP would make you taste mud at a scrum session but he will also braai/bbq you a nice descent steak afterwards and look after you.

"To get 150 games for Edinburgh - and he played 150 plus before joining Edinburgh - the man just keep going! Also getting their new baby and their fourth child maybe on or before his appearance this weekend will be the cherry on the top!"

Ross Ford

"When WP first arrived he was very, very quiet and his Scottish wasn’t what it is now - so me and him had that language barrier!

"He just went about his business with no fuss, I liked that about him straight away. He is just that kind of man, never up, nor down. Gets on with the job to a high standard.

"His try from halfway against Leinster was unreal. He gassed everyone to dot down. I think his second season possibly, he played just about every game.

"80 mins week in week out, destroying scrums and galloping around the park - that’s some feat for a modern day tight head!

"One word to describe WP is humble. To play as many games for Edinburgh shows his quality and to come back from serious injury and be better again shows his mentality and desire to play.

"I’m sure Alana and the family will be so proud of the big man, he is a cornerstone of that team!"

Rory Sutherland

"My first impression of of the big fella was what a beast! I was just a youngster at the time and I'd seen clips on YouTube of him, the man in person did not disappoint!

"My stand out memory of WP has to be in his first year against Leinster, when he rounded the 13 from about 40M out and got the meat pie!

"WP is a great guy and someone that has always been there for me throughout my career, helping me in any way shape or form to improve my game and make me a better player.

"Over the years we have spent a lot of time together. On away trips, we almost always room together, so he has been stuck with me for the past seven years!

"I wish him the best of luck this week and with the rest of his career!"

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