When Tim Visser made his competitive debut for Edinburgh Rugby back on September 4, 2009, he ploughed a lone furrow as the sole “foreigner” in the ranks. Fast-forward to today and it is conceivable that Visser, now qualified on residency, could be the token “Scot” in Edinburgh’s latest line-ups.
Edinburgh finished runners-up in the Celtic League in 08-09 with a home-grown team but the past year has seen an influx of foreigners into the club, with players from as far afield as Fiji, Georgia and South Africa arriving at Murrayfield.
Although the mantra of “super teams” was to keep the crème-de-la-crème of Scottish rugby in the country and nurture the best talent home soil had to offer, the need to be competitive in bread-and-butter league competition has never been more necessary.
And that is especially the case if English and French clubs succeed in making the Rabo Direct a qualifier for the Heineken Cup with only eight out of 12 clubs going through as opposed to “all-in” at present.
It was against that background that the articulate Visser chose to raise the subject of Edinburgh’s foreign legion during the launch of the club’s new kit.
Visser said: “We have foreign quality coming in to make us more competitive in the Rabo where we have really struggled when internationalists were away. I know there is some discussion at the moment in the press and the rugby community that it’s hampering young Scottish talent, etc.
“You have to look at it the other way as well. It’s tough for us to be competitive when those youngsters aren’t where they should be yet and they can’t compete at the level of the Rabo. If we can’t find them yet in the Scottish rugby community, then we have to look further afield.”
Referring to Irish coach Michael Bradley, the winger said: “That is obviously what Michael has done. I think it is brilliant. I know it is hampering young Scottish talent but we need to be more competitive in domestic league form than we ever have, especially with the expectations we built last season (reaching a Euro semi).
“Last year it was very evident that the period when the internationalists were away cost us the league. We have been able to bring players through though (Matt Scott, Tom Brown, Dave Denton and Lee Jones who won first caps last season) and that is another reason why we now have had to look further afield.”
The latest arrival is former England hooker Andy Titterrell, 31, whose presence will be another challenge for one-time Musselburgh and Currie prospect Alun Walker as he bids to depose Scotland captain Ross Ford. Only last month Heriot’s legend Kenny Milne warned of the dangers of frustrating home-grown talent.
What’s certain, though, is that the days of a player being left to train virtually on his own with Edinburgh while colleagues set off down the international trail are over.
Looking back from the vantage point of someone who qualified to gain two caps on the recent summer tour, Dutch-born Visser said: “Sometimes it was me on my own if Scotland and the A team were playing and the sevens and under-20s were involved too.
“In my first year when I was the only foreigner these were tough times but (fitness coach) Andy Boyd was brilliant at leading me through tough times and good times as well.
“A lot of what I am is a player can be attributed to Andy. He has been great developing me physically as have all the coaches I have played under in Scotland.”
Top league try-scorer in each of the past three seasons, Visser will use his international status as a spur.
“Hopefully I will be away on international duty statistically to get top Rabo try scorer again is going to be a lot tougher. I’ll still try and be up there. Try scoring is one of my traits and I want to keep it that way. I want to keep the consistency I have shown for Edinburgh.”