Tim Visser goes back to the future in Fiji

Tim Visser heads for the line to score a second try against Italy in 2015. 
Photograph: Ian Rutherford
Tim Visser heads for the line to score a second try against Italy in 2015. Photograph: Ian Rutherford
Share this article
0
Have your say

Everyone remembers their debut for Scotland but perhaps even more so when the player in question is Dutch and claimed a brace of tries that very same day in an era when tries were hard to come by for the Scots.

Incidentally, Tim Visser repeated the trick in his third Test, this time against the All Blacks, just to prove it was no fluke.

The big winger recalls the frustrations of sitting in the stand in a monsoon when Scotland beat Australia in Newcastle, New South Wales, not quite qualified for his adopted country. Will Genia came off that pitch shaking like Elvis and complaining of hypothermia, sorely tempted to swap places with the Dutchman in the stands, or so you imagine.

Visser was capped one week later, in Fiji. Since then he has earned 31 caps and is obviously relishing the prospect of returning to where it all started for him

“Yeah, it was a fun time there last time,” recalls the speedster. “ I mean it’s a tricky country to go to. We probably pulled off a good job there last time but it’s a tricky place to go and play.

“It’s ridiculously hot, the environment there is tough for westerners. You go into the changing room which has no air conditioning and it’s boiling hot. I remember Stuart Hogg, obviously he’s a little bit ginger, he struggled tremendously over there, so did the rest of us.

“I remember the warm up. It was so hot that me and Hoggy were fighting for the only bit of shade to try and survive and get through the warm up. As the game went on Fiji kept coming back into the game, they are obviously used to the heat a little bit more.

“It’s a beautiful country, it’s a great place to tour. It’s not somewhere you would normally go to, I guess, as a westerner, to Fiji, but it’s exciting and I am excited to go back.”

Scotland are scheduled to play Italy in Singapore, Australia in Sydney and Fiji in Suva. Unusually, Visser will start in pole position in terms of the back three – if only because his main rivals are otherwise engaged. Sean Maitland is injured, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour are in New Zealand on Lions’ duty, which leaves the 30-year-old Visser as the experienced head on Scotland’s summer tour.

If the Dutchman announced himself to the rugby world with those two tries on his debut, the rest of his Test career has not been quite so simple. He knew his way to the line but his defensive frailties were exposed and exploited all too often and he was in and out of favour like the latest fashion on a Parisian catwalk.

However, as living proof that an old dog can learn new tricks, Visser was vastly improved last season and that improvement took place before our eyes in the space of 40 minutes at Murrayfield.

Visser was as bad as anyone else in blue in the first half against Wales and when he was bumped in the tackle by Leigh Halfpenny you could almost hear the collective groan from the Murrayfield crowd. I don’t know what was in his half-time Bovril but it did the trick because Visser was a changed man after the break. He won almost every aerial battle with fellow giant George North. He popped up on the “wrong” wing to set up Tommy Seymour’s try in the right-hand corner. He stopped Rhys Webb from scoring at the other end and he made full use of Hogg’s card-sharp hand speed to score one himself.

Visser quit Edinburgh in protest at Alan Solomons’ route one rugby but thrived under Cotter’s more expansive horizons and the Dutchman should see even more of the ball with Scotland under new management.

“I’ve said this before, during those last seasons with Edinburgh I got a bit stale,” says the Dutchman. “We didn’t really play the game I like, which didn’t help me massively but I improved a lot in my defence and I rediscovered my attacking game at Quins, where we play the type of game we used to play at Edinburgh, all the way back.

“He’s been good so far,” Visser says when asked about new coach Gregor Townsend. “I have only been here for a day and half now and the type of rugby we are trying to play is exciting. It’s not too far away from what we played under Vern.

“We played an expansive game and he (Gregor) is adding his own touch to that, slightly different types of calls, where he wants his wingers to inject but it’s been really good and he seems like a nice guy which for me is really important in a coach.

“He was backs coach before I qualified. We have seen each other in the halls at Murrayfield, but not worked together…

“He has been good, he has been really friendly, welcoming, positive and I have just enjoyed training.”

You would hardly expect anything else from a player to a new coach but Townsend’s style of rugby should excite and animate the players, although that is just one of the many short-term goals for this squad… in addition to the obvious aim of winning three Tests.

First up, Townsend has to unearth more talent in the back three. Ruaridh Jackson, Greg Tonks and, the coach pointed out, Duncan Taylor, can all play at 15 but he will be loathe to remove the Saracen from the midfield where he is at his most effective and where Scotland are already missing Huw Jones and Mark Bennett to injury. Townsend has options, with Nick Grigg and Matt Scott both keen to start and re-start their international careers respectively.

Jackson looks like the option at full-back, where he brings the same eye for space as Hogg, if not the same pace to exploit it, and probably Damien Hoyland on the right wing, but Townsend has made a career out of springing selection surprises on us all.

The withdrawal of Richie Gray from the tour leaves the coach with just three specialist locks for a three-Test tour and the Western Force’s Lewis Carmichael has a good chance of getting a phone call from Townsend sometime between now and that Sydney international come 17 June, when Visser will hope to have a bigger say in events than he managed the last time he was there with Scotland.

“I sat in the stands for the game in Australia which was amazing because we won and I was sitting there in a poncho as sideways hail came in. I just wanted to be on the pitch.”

That wish will surely be granted when he returns to Australia.