Tighthead titan WP Nel has only been a Scotland internationalist for six months but has amassed a dozen caps and has already cemented himself as a fans’ favourite.
The South African-born 29-year-old has made a huge impact and, alongside his Edinburgh mates Al Dickinson and Ross Ford, has helped make the Scottish scrum a force to be reckoned with.
The modest Nel is not one for the limelight and always stresses the team element but he admits that he is beginning to get more recognition from the public.
Ahead of Saturday’s clash with Ireland in Dublin – the third-placed Scots’ final match of this season’s Six Nations – Nel said: “I try to hide away but sometimes people are coming up to me and it’s nice to have a chance to talk to new people and talk about the game itself.
“It’s been recently they have come up and said things like, ‘you had a great World Cup’.
“They tell me that it’s nice to see Scotland are doing well again and it’s good to see progress.
“I know how it is in South Africa, if you lose then you don’t go to the shops. You stay in the house the next day.
“So it’s good to have good performances and people can see you are working hard.”
Nel qualified on the three-year residency rule last summer and is clear that Scotland is now in his heart and may remain home beyond his rugby career.
“The first year I was here, I fell in love with the country,” said Nel. “It’s a very nice place and I would love to stay here. The people are very friendly and very nice so doing well for Scotland makes it that bit more special.
“I also love the shortbread which is very good!
“But it’s more about the freedom for the kids. It’s about giving them something that they can’t get back home at this moment.
“I have a boy at three and half and my girl will be two in July.
“It’s about their safety and you can relax in your mind and it’s nice to know there is nothing to worry about.”