Wicus Blaauw impresses as a man with an ice-cold temperament, as illustrated by the way he came off the bench to help Edinburgh Rugby close out narrow victories over Newport Gwent Dragons and Munster this season.
Now, as he stands on the brink of a first competitive start for the team he joined from Biarritz over the summer when Zebre visit Murrayfield in the RaboDirect PRO12 on Friday, it has emerged that Blaauw learned to keep his cool in the hot and dusty Kalahari desert that is home.
Son of a former Namibia internationalist, prop forward Blaauw grew up on a 10,000 acre farm, where it was often the case that he and a twin brother had the job of rounding up invasive animals, such as “boks” – Afrikaans for deer – who would damage crops and animal feed.
“Driving round and around between the dunes in a group of bakkies (4x4 pick up trucks) enabled us to circle animals, some of them wild, and drive them into nets,” Blaauw told the Evening News.
“It wasn’t hard training, but it did get the adrenalin going, which helps me to stay calm on the pitch today.
“After we tangled the animals in nets, we had to release them, load them on to the land cruisers and then give them an injection to calm them down before moving them away.
“We’ve always had a lot of wild animals on our land and you have to be careful dealing with them.
“I’ll return there one day to work with my brother, who is a professional hunter. I sometimes get quite jealous of him going off hunting jackals and showing visitors lions and elephants up in the north of Namibia.
“For just now, though, I am delighted to be given the chance to play at Edinburgh for [coach] Alan Solomons, who I knew through his work with a record-breaking South African national team, and also Omar Mouneimne, who was defence coach when I was at Western Province Stormers.
“Going to a club where you respect the coaches highly was part of the attraction for me and I also know Willem Nel and Izak van der Westhuizen [two fellow Edinburgh players] from my time in South Africa.
“For a while Willem and I were at Western Province together and when he went off to the Cheetahs, we would sometimes scrummaged against each other.”
In last weekend’s win over Treviso prop Nel notched a try to add to the four he claimed last season and Blaauw revealed: “Willem has always liked to pick up and go near the try-line!”
Edinburgh now have the chance to move up the table if they can make it five home wins out of six in all competitions, albeit Zebre showed tenacity in gaining a draw last weekend against a Scarlets team who needed an injury-time Rhys Priestland penalty for a share of the spoils.
“I feel Edinburgh are definitely starting to progress,” said Blaauw, who was speaking at the unveiling of a plan for Edinburgh to showcase their white alternative strips this weekend.
Blaauw added: “There’s still a lot of hard work ahead and stuff we can improve on, but you can feel every week it is getting better. I feel Edinburgh is a brilliant club which can get to semi-finals and finals.”