AFTER the Springboks’ humiliation at the hands of Japan it may be that Scotland’s latest South African recruit is secretly relieved to have switched horses at exactly the right time, not that any of the Scottish journalists are brave enough to suggest such a thing to his face.
Strauss only qualified on “Super Sunday” as he dubbed it, just in the nick of time for this World Cup and he is set to make his international debut off the bench on tomorrow afternoon, although he insists that playing for Scotland was not the main reason for his move to Glasgow Warriors three years ago.
“Before I came to Glasgow I was aware of the [three-year residency] law but it wasn’t on the front of my mind,” says Struass in his distinctive basso profondo voice.
“Just performing at Glasgow was at the front of my mind. But I had seen other players do it before me, but you never expect it and it’s never an easy ride. You don’t get into any team without hard work. Obviously I had a great deal of pride when I got the call, a bit of relief as well, because the pre-season was really tough and you want to get something for all the hard work you’ve put in. A lot of pride in making it. I think anyone who plays the sport, growing up from a young boy, the dream is to play on the biggest stage. I haven’t achieved [that] yet, but putting yourself close to achieving it was a great feeling.
“You get a few texts of congratulations. I spoke to my mum and my wife about it. It’s like anything you achieve. Getting on the pitch on Wednesday, if hopefully that does happen, that’ll be the big one for me, so I don’t want to have too many distractions going into the game. I just want to be focused and prepared like any other game and do as best I can.”
It has been a long time coming. While the remainder of the Scotland squad were playing four warm-up matches, the unqualified South African was turning out for Glasgow while still trying to train with the national squad, which left him sitting uncomfortably between two stools.
“It’s been tough,” he said. “Going into camp I knew what the script was. I got a bit of game time for Glasgow, I played against Canada and the Scarlets, you’ve got to get fit but it was tough. It did feel a bit up and down, because you’re in between the two teams.”
Strauss paid tribute to those who had helped him on his journey to the biggest stage, including his Glasgow coach, Gregor Townsend, Al Kellock, his mother, who hadn’t missed a match until he moved to Glasgow, and his big brother “for beating me up playing rugby in the living room”, which can only have helped.
He joins his fellow South African import WP Nel and the Dutchman Tim Visser as three foreigners in the Scotland squad who have taken advantage of World Rugby’s ruling that allows players to qualify after just three years of residency in a country.
While Strauss might have been favourite to start against Japan a few weeks ago, he is named amongst the substitutes after Edinburgh No 8 David Denton put in two barnstorming performances in the build-up to this World Cup. Strauss is sure to make a suitable impact off the bench.