ANYONE who has seen Pierre Schoeman play or heard him talk will be aware of the exuberance and enthusiasm that the Edinburgh prop brings to everything he is involved in. It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that the 26-year-old can hardly wait to become eligible to play for Scotland.
Schoeman has a few months to go – four, to be precise – before he qualifies on residence grounds. And he has every intention of focusing fully on playing for Edinburgh until such time as he is called up to Gregor Townsend’s squad.
But he admits that having seen three fellow-South Africans – Edinburgh’s Duhan van der Merwe and Jaco van der Walt and Glasgow’s Oli Kebble – win their first caps this season, he is pretty eager to follow in their footsteps. “I’ve been massively impressed by them – I’m very proud of them,” he said yesterday. “It gives me a lot of inspiration and motivation to go and play for Scotland.
“You almost can’t sit in front of the telly and watch with your wife, because you just want to go outside and hit a tree or something. You just want to play as well.”
Schoeman signed for Edinburgh from the Blue Bulls in 2018, and it was when Scotland played South Africa at Murrayfield at the end of that year that he realised how exciting it would be to represent his new country. “When we watched the Springboks play against Scotland – that was the first time I experienced it,” he said about a match that ended in a 26-20 win for the visitors.
“When the lights went off, the music starts and the whole crowd sing together . . . That was quite emotional to think that one day you can maybe play for Scotland.
“I’m eligible in July. So all of a sudden it can become a reality if you’re good enough.
“With Jaco, Oli and Duhan all coming into the team, it’s amazing for me to see that it’s a possibility that can come true. You can actually be part of it, give back and make a difference.”
Kebble has tended to be back-up loosehead to Rory Sutherland in the Scotland squad recently, and Schoeman faces a tough fight to make the No 1 jersey his own. Stand-off Van der Walt got his chance to represent his adoptive country when both Finn Russell and Adam Hastings were out injured late last year, and could be back in the matchday 23 if Hastings is suspended for any of the remaining Six Nations fixtures.
By contrast, Van der Merwe has not only established himself as first choice on the left wing, he has also come into strong contention for a place in the Lions squad for this summer’s series against South Africa. The winger’s rapid rise has come as no surprise to Schoeman, who credits good coaching from Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh with giving him the confidence to make the most of his talent.
“If you look at how well Duhan is playing at the moment, with his British and Irish Lions chances as well, it’s very inspiring and motivational. I wasn’t surprised, as I always knew from his early days at the Bulls that he just needed a coach that backed him and a team where he could prove himself.
“And that’s what he’s done, first at Edinburgh and now with Scotland. He puts in the hard yards and he has natural ability as well. He’s not a one-hit wonder or someone who’s had good luck. He’s really a world-class player.”
Schoeman captained Edinburgh for the first time last week in the defeat by Scarlets, is expected to be in the team to play Benetton on Sunday, and still has a lot of rugby to play for Richard Cockerill’s side this season before he can turn his attention to Scotland. He is keeping busy off the field too, with his South African sausage company The Proper Pioneer – but is adamant that he would not let it distract him from his rugby.
“It’s going very well. We’ve had to employ other staff, which is amazing.
“I spoke to coach Cockers and it’s obviously important to make sure rugby remains the main focus. You can do stuff after rugby, but rugby has to come first. So I’m still doing stuff, but I’m not trying to be too involved.
“I’m still young – I could still play for another 8-10 years if I’m fortunate. You have to go full-out. After that, you can worry about other stuff.”