The Scotland tighthead will mark a decade’s service with Edinburgh this season and he remains a vital cog for club and country.
He played a key role in the last Six Nations, coming off the bench against England to help close out the historic win at Twickenham and then featuring against Wales and starting against Ireland.
His duties now include coaching at Edinburgh and he also had a spell helping out at Watsonians. Others are keen to tap into his propping expertise but his main contribution is still centred around match-day.
Now 35, he signed a new contract with the capital club earlier this year and isn’t planning on giving up just yet.
“It all depends on the body,” he said. “Some days I get up out of bed and ask myself why am I still doing this. But on some days, especially on game days, you get all the hype and everything and you think this is why I’m still doing it.
“During the week it is getting tough and it’s not that easy to get up for every training session, especially now with the cold days. It’s tough, but while the body is healthy I’ll keep going.”
Nel was at his sprightly best on Saturday, scoring Edinburgh’s opening try in the agonising last-gasp defeat by Benetton in Italy.
He may revert to a place on the bench this weekend when the Stormers visit the DAM Health Stadium, the first part of a home double-header for Edinburgh against South African opposition.
The Stormers are missing some big names who are on Springboks duty but they impressed in the first half against Munster in Limerick last Saturday, leading 15-0 before losing a player to the sin-bin and being overhauled in the second half.
Nel expects a battle up front but has warned his team-mates to also be aware of danger in the backline as the South African sides adapt to playing in Europe after a tough baptism for them in the opening two rounds of the United Rugby Championship.
“The Stormers have a good pack, as we saw against Munster,” he said. “They will bring a challenge, but the South African boys also want to run with the ball, they want to play in the backs. We are going to be up for a great challenge this week.
“The scrum is definitely a bigger thing in the northern hemisphere. Back in South Africa, in Super Rugby, there’s not too many long scrums.
“The props want to play with the ball. It’s a bit different and they will have to adapt over the next three or four weeks. You will see different South African teams coming out later through the season.”
And with the autumn Tests just around the corner, will we see Nel adding to his 43 caps?
“Let’s take it one at a time. If I get the opportunity to pull that blue jersey over my head I will do what I can for Scotland to get a good performance.”