The more the Scottish rugby public gets to know about John Hardie the more, it seems, there is to like.
While some of Scotland’s star performers at the recent World Cup have suffered a bit of a dip in form since returning to their clubs, the openside flanker who arrived in July from the Otago Highlanders and joined Edinburgh after the tournament in England, just gets better and better.
He was referred to as “the Duracell bunny” during the World Cup and that moniker becomes more apt with every livewire display he delivers.
The 27-year-old has faced the media quite a bit in the past few weeks, giving his adopted homeland the chance to learn more about him, and he was up chatting to the press again on Sunday following his man-of-the-match performance in the 23-11 win over Glasgow at BT Murrayfield.
As softly spoken and well mannered off the pitch as he is hard as nails on it, Hardie was beaming with delight after his 70th-minute try from a driving maul helped his new club stretch out to a 12-point lead halfway through their bid to retain the 1872 Cup.
He has played five times for Scotland but Hardie said that Sunday’s inter-city showdown was approaching international levels of intensity at times.
“It was up there with Test match rugby, really physical,” he said. “It was the most physical game I’ve played with Edinburgh and I really enjoyed it.
“They really chucked it at us in that first 15 minutes. I looked up at the scoreboard and thought there were 40 minutes gone but there were only 15, so the lungs were going. It’s always a great one playing against some of your mates. You never want them to get one over you, so I really enjoyed it.”
Hardie was the first to point out that it was a team effort which got Edinburgh the result they wanted, with wing Tom Brown’s bone-shuddering late tackle on Taqele Naiyaravoro the defining example of the home side’s character and commitment to the cause.
“Defence was probably the key,” said the flanker. “They’ve got so many exciting players and they’ve got the big lock [Leone Nakarawa] who can off-load and do anything and the big boy on the wing [Naiyaravoro] as well who can off-load and do anything, but I think wee Tommy there, the wee man really put his body on the line and that’s the sort of commitment we need to win those games. It was great.”
Hardie was pleased to get on the scoresheet, particularly after coming close a few minutes earlier when Glasgow managed to stem the home maul on the line.
“I mucked up the first one,” said Hardie. “I should have scored there when we went down, but we made it back and, the boys up front, they do that and I hang off the back and score tries and I’ve got quite a few just doing that.
“It’s what you do on the training field and it’s great to have a pay off. We played a good brand of rugby and I thought it would have been good to watch as both sides really chucked it around.”
After returning from the atmosphere of the World Cup to play in front of near empty crowds at BT Murrayfield with Edinburgh, Hardie relished the occasion on Sunday when a record 23,642 pitched up at the national stadium.
“I thought the atmosphere was up there with what I experienced with the Highlanders. It was a really great crowd and you could tell it when you came out. It’s just great to have good crowds like that and it gets us over the line.”
Hardie is confident Edinburgh can now finish the job at Scotstoun on Saturday and bring the cup back along the M8.
“I’d back ourselves,” he said. “It’s going to be tough, They’re going to come out and they’re going to come out firing.
“They’ve got great players all across the paddock and they are really going to chuck it to us and 12 points doesn’t take much. We’ll be going out to win though. That’s the mindset we need. We can’t go out there to just defend and hold on.”