Carl Bezuidenhout has given a glowing appraisal of Allan Dell as his young South African compatriot closes in on an Edinburgh Rugby debut.
Prop forward Dell’s first competitive opportunity in an Edinburgh shirt after injury could come as quickly as Friday during a visit to Ulster and if, and when, that moment arrives utility back Bezuidenhout is convinced he will be ready.
Bezuidenhout said of a player he recalls from playing in South Africa’s Currie Cup, a domestic competition he won with the Nelspruit-based Pumas prior to joining Edinburgh initially on a four-month trial: “Allan is a really positive young player with an incredible CV back home.
“He got involved with South African schools and captained them for a game, which was a great achievement.” Dell, who can play on both sides of the scrum, also helped the Junior Springboks win the Under-20 World Cup and the good news for Scotland coach Vern Cotter is that his grandmother, Joan Carmichael, hails from Paisley, making him qualified without having to undergo a residency period of three years.
“Allan’s hard-working and has very good morals,” Bezuidenhout added. “He’s an all-round good guy who is going to offer a lot to the Edinburgh squad. To have extra depth will be good because the front row is a crucial area, especially in wet weather when the scrums become vital.
“Having a young guy who is enthusiastic backing up the experienced guys ... it’s exciting to see what he can do.”
In all probability Edinburgh could field South Africans in all three rows of the scrum at Ulster, including the irrepressible Cornell Du Preez, who goes from strength to strength in many observers’ estimations.
Bezuidenhout isn’t surprised, and again drawing on knowledge of the South African scene, said: “I played against Cornell in a few games and he is just a phenomenal player with his skill level and all-round reading of the game and the way that he just continues to develop.”
The impending onset of European competition is a reminder of how Bezuidenhout debuted from off the bench in a home victory over Perpignan last season. And while currently sidelined with a knee injury, the fact he has been registered for the European Challenge Cup that gets under way for Edinburgh with a trip to Bordeaux-Begles on October 17, augurs well for a quick recovery.
Indeed, the value of this full back/stand off can be gauged by the fact that although he arrived late last year, in 11 starts plus a substitute appearance he garnered 51 points including a try to finish second-top scorer behind the now departed Greig Laidlaw.
He injured a leg in the pre-season match against Leicester and aggravated it when he turned out in the Premiership for Boroughmuir more recently. However, it isn’t his kicking leg. “I didn’t even realise until afterwards I’d done some damage to a ligament and maybe it was the adrenalin of getting a win at Melrose in a really tight game that partly accounted for that.
“I felt only a twinge and the physio said afterwards that my leg was coping and that it was a good sign as it meant I didn’t need surgery.
“Playing in Europe [competition] is the target I’m working towards after the awesome experience of helping beat Perpignan on my debut.”
The fact his contract was extended is a ringing endorsement of Bezuidenhout’s talent and he is now determined to repay the faith of head coach Alan Solomons.
“Compared with when I arrived, things have bedded down and the squad has much more depth. I feel comfortable having learned the systems and I don’t mind whether it is at full-back or stand-off, I just wanted to be involved.”
In fact, it was from full-back that he contributed 16 points in a home win over Ospreys last season, although his only try so far was from stand off in the home league encounter with Munster.
“Most of my career has been at full back, but I do enjoy stand off as you get more touches on the ball.”
Although still in rehabilitation, Bezuidenhout was able to discern a better vibe amongst the Edinburgh squad on returning to training this week after a 20-20 home draw with Scarlets, which was the culmination of a character-showing fightback from 3-17, especially given Edinburgh’s record defeat when losing 62-13 to Ospreys just days previously.
“It was still not the result we wanted and we are not resting on laurels as we must always strive to get better.
“But there’s a much more positive feeling in the camp now.
“It’s only September and nobody is panicking.”
• Carl Bezuidenhout was speaking as Wooden Spoon, one of Scottish Rugby’s official charity partners, donated £30,000 to Saltersgate School, Dalkeith, which caters for primary and secondary pupils in Midlothian across the range of physical and learning disabilities.