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Alistair Christie in Conversation with WP Nel

To celebrate the partnership between Galbraith and Edinburgh Rugby, Alistair Christie caught up with club stalwart and international W P Nel, who recently extended his stay in the capital, with the tighthead prop putting pen-to-paper on a brand new deal.

The South African-born prop has carved a scintillating career for both Edinburgh and Scotland since arriving in 2011. The 34-year old is a fan favourite at BT Murrayfield whatever colour jersey he appears in - a far cry from growing up on a sheep farm in his home town of Loerlesfontein. 

Alistair Christie chats to him about his rural upbringing, career so far and life after rugby.

AC: Firstly WP I would like to congratulate you on passing 150 appearances for Edinburgh Rugby and of course signing a new contract, extending your stay at the club. 

WP: Thank you Al! Let’s just see how long I can keep this body going.

AC: It’s been a tricky year due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. How have you managed to keep yourself motivated and fit whist also balancing family life throughout the last 12 months?

WP: I think that family is the biggest thing that’s kept me going this past year. The first lockdown you only had your family around you, so I tried to be as positive as possible. I tried new things and kept people busy and occupied especially with a little baby.  In fairness for me it was probably good to rest the body. It was actually a good time with the family and they were the cornerstone of my lockdown. 

AC: Did you have to bubble with any of the players or anything like that?

WP: No at the start it was all on Zoom. We got watt bikes delivered to the door and would have morning and afternoon sessions, so that was good company. We bubbled in the house and met on Zoom with our bikes so it was a win/win. 

AC: Going back to the start, you moved to Scotland from South Africa when you signed for Edinburgh in 2012. What was the main motivation to come over?

WP: Probably opportunity. Back home the main motivation to look overseas was when the Springboks head coach at the time came round the club and said: “You’re not going to be in my picture for selection.”  My coach at the time (at the Cheetahs) said it was maybe time  for me to look for something a little different. Edinburgh was the opportunity we went for and here  we are 10 years later.

AC: Well it certainly worked out for the best here with both Edinburgh and the National set up. We are certainly grateful! 

AC: Obviously WP a lot of the work we do at Galbraith is rural and I know you have a strong background in that. Can you give us an idea of what your upbringing was like back in South Africa and why you have an interest in rural life?

WP: Yeah, I was born into a small town with a small community, almost all farmers, so it’s in my blood. As much as you try to get rid of it, and I have tried hard this past 10 years, it’s difficult. I was brought up in a farm with sheep and my dad is still doing it. Every weekend when you’re not in school I’d be on the farm. It is part of my life.

AC: I imagine there’s quite big differences in agriculture between Scotland and your native South Africa, much of it determined by the climate! Do you see yourself going back into agriculture after rugby?

WP: Yeah Al you know we have had a couple of chats back and forth and I would love to after rugby, like I said it is part of me. There is a big difference how farmers operate back home to here. The land is much bigger over in South Africa because of differences in climate and rainfall, so you have to have massive land for your sheep and cattle. If I look at the farmers though it all comes down to the same things and the key is to be productive and see how you can get the best out of your sheep and lamb at the market.

AC: It’s looking like you might get to face some of the South African teams in next season’s Guinness PRO14 competition. Would you be looking forward to that challenge if it all goes ahead as planned? 

WP: I think there will definitely be some banter! I think the teams will bring a different challenge, there will be some running rugby and new challenges than with the teams in the northern hemisphere. We are really looking forward to getting them over and involved in this competition. I think it will attract new viewers as well. In South Africa they are one big rugby community so to have them as part of the competition will be brilliant as well. It’s exciting!

AC: And of course there’s been big investment at BT Murrayfield with their new stadium now completed. Are you excited to get out on the pitch and enjoy some fast running rugby?

WP: Haha I don’t know about the fast running rugby! I think it is good for us as a club. We have had a couple of sessions on it now and it does feel like home. It’ll be great for us to get the supporters in there and play somewhere new – a new home and a new environment.

AC: That sound’s great WP. I can’t wait until we are allowed to get along and see it on match day when it’s safe to do so. Lastly, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say we are absolutely delighted to be onboard as sponsors for another two seasons and we can’t wait to see you running out there many more times with an Edinburgh jersey on. Thank you for your time.

WP: Thank you Al and thank you for the support from Galbraith and keeping faith in us.