Rugby: Wanted man Tim Visser set for call to arms from home

Tim Visser. Picture: David Gibson/Fotosport
Tim Visser. Picture: David Gibson/Fotosport
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EDINBURGH RUGBY are likely to face calls to release cult hero Tim Visser for a major exhibition game being planned for his native Netherlands on the weekend between the end of the EMC Autumn Tests and the start of the Heineken European Cup.

Wing ace Visser marked a first appearance for the Scottish team he qualified to represent under a three year residency rule with a brace of tries as Fiji were defeated at Lautoka on Saturday.

And the performance of Visser, top try scorer in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League for the past two seasons, has racked up the pressure for him to be included in a ground-breaking fixture the Evening News understands is being planned for the Amsterdam Arena in early December between the Barbarians Select and the touring South Africans.

Confirmation that such a match is in the pipeline comes today from Arnold Michel, manager of the Dutch national rugby team, who insisted: “Tim’s inclusion in the Scotland side will hopefully have a big impact on rugby in our country.

“Already I have signed up along with 42 other Dutch supporters to travel to Murrayfield in November, partly in the hope of seeing Tim playing for Scotland against South Africa.

“Tim was already very popular as a rugby player because of his willingness to return and conduct coaching clinics free of charge to help the game in his homeland.”

Michel played for Holland alongside Marc Visser, father of Tim, and his brother, Sep, who has also represented Edinburgh and is attached to the Boroughmuir club.

“It took me a while to see Tim play senior rugby because he left aged about 16 to take up a rugby scholarship in England which for a spell looked as if it would set him on course to play for England.

“It didn’t surprise me to learn that Tim has been working hard in Scotland on all aspects of his game and I think he can do well on and off the pitch.”

On the proposed Amsterdam Arena fixture, Michel said: “I am sure the Arena is going to sell out for the biggest rugby event ever staged in Holland because the cost of flying over from the UK is also reasonable and the private organisers of the event are hoping to attract fans from throughout Europe.”

Is there any resentment of the fact that a player of Visser’s ability is representing Scotland and not Holland?

Arnold’s friend and fellow Dutch internationalist, Michel van der Loos, turned down offers to qualify for Wales and France when playing in those countries during the 1970s. But, as he points out, that was in the amateur era.

“It is accepted that we can’t afford to give Tim or the many other players who qualify for Dutch passports the support they need to pursue a professional career,” he said.

“There are so many players effectively qualified around the world to play for Holland that if they were all suddenly available I would feel confident of putting out a team capable of beating Scotland, without being disrespectful.

“That isn’t going to happen for the same reasons that we can’t even compete with local rivals Belgium whose entire team are playing in France or Germany who have one national and the rest of their side comprising expat Australians or New Zealanders.

“Similarly, Sep Visser has represented Holland, but we can’t attract him back at the moment because he needs to try to get a contract with Edinburgh.

“Of course, we could push the case legally through the International Rugby Board, but we recognise Sep is trying to play full time. It is a question of money and not even a match between the Barbarians and South Africa will help us too much because it is being privately organised.

“But more people will be aware of rugby in Holland as a consequence of that and the performances of Tim Visser.”

Questions might well arise, though, as to whether Edinburgh can afford to agree to a request to release the week before facing either Saracens, Racing Metro or Munster in the Heineken Cup – or whether it is the least the Scottish game can do to repay input received from its flying Dutchman.