Andries Strauss revels in role as Edinburgh’s old head

Andries Strauss has benefited from a long-awaited summer break
Andries Strauss has benefited from a long-awaited summer break
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Edinburgh Rugby player Andries Strauss intends to find additional motivation this season from mentoring young talent coming through the ranks.

At 30-years-old, there is nobody more experienced expected to line-up in Edinburgh’s back division; Nikki Walker has been discarded with a year of his contract remaining and Ben Atiga was recently taken back on board for midfield cover only.

Add in the fact that Strauss represented the Springboks in a non-cap match against the Barbarians, twice won his native South Africa’s top domestic competition and appeared in a Super 15 semi-final, and it is easy to see why he is such an important element in Alan Solomons’s plans.

It is a two-way process, though, with centre Strauss saying: “As an older player it is good to have young guys around me so I can feed off their energies.

“And there comes a situation where you can lend experience to the younger guys as well as contribute in other ways.

“Whether or not they choose to use it I don’t really care, as long as they learn something.

“I’ve reached the stage, though, where it’s sometimes a case of ‘do as I say and not as I do’ because there are often times where I can’t do what I want to do. It’s just not possible.

“The nature of the game dictates that as you near the end of your career, that’s what happens.”

Scratch the surface, however, and it is easy to find an element of self effacement from Strauss at an age which hardly makes him a veteran.

In his position, especially, players like Mike Tindall and Brian O’Driscoll have been starring at Test level well into their 30s.

Furthermore, Strauss’s value can be gauged by the fact that once he arrived from South Africa he reeled off 11 consecutive starts for Edinburgh in the run-up to the end of last season; nobody in the backs bettered that run.

Durability, then, appears to be an asset, too, for the man who, in the spell he partnered 20-year-old Chris Dean against Leicester in last weekend’s opening friendly, saw the youngster produce some notable tackles before a minor ankle injury forced his withdrawal. Others are waiting in the wings, also.

Michael Tait (24) and Chris Auld (21) will feel they are due an opportunity, while first-choice Matt Scott, who is currently injured, is still only 23 and seemed to draw inspiration from playing alongside Strauss last season when he scored tries in four consecutive matches. Indications are that Strauss might even be better placed to prosper now as he reaps the benefit of a summer break after playing back-to-back campaigns due to changing hemispheres.

“I do feel a bit fresher than I did six months ago,” says Strauss, who had spells at Natal Sharks and Orange Free State Cheetahs before latterly linking up with current Edinburgh coach Solomons at Eastern Province Kings.

“We have had a gruelling pre-season but we’ll reap the benefits during the middle and towards the end.

“We’ll be more experienced as a team, too, and the consistency should improve with us now being more of a unit.

“I like to take the positives and when we did get it right, we showed ourselves capable of competing with the best as we did at (subsequent champions) Leinster.

“Now it is about building a team to please our supporters, who expect us to win.”