Profile: Tim Visser, Edinburgh rugby player

Jonah Lomu was a one-off, a unique never-to-be-repeated combination of power, pace and sheer elephantine size. His opposite number Craig Joiner swapped his shorts with the All Black after the 1995 World Cup quarter-final and was comfortably able to fit both his legs into one half of Lomu's shorts.

• Towering Dutch try-machine Tim Visser is proud to wear Edinburgh's garish colours, but would be even prouder still to sport the blue of Scotland

Will Carling called him a freak and we won't see his like again in our lifetime, but still journalists insist on handing players the dubious honour of being "the new Lomu".

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

For a while it seemed that any strapping winger who had more than three forward gears was "the next Lomu". Aurelien Rougerie was dubbed France's new Lomu and Lote Tuqiri was heralded as Australia's answer to the big fella. If former All Black skipper Tana Umaga was once New Zealand's "new Lomu", Sonny Bill Williams has now inherited that unwanted title. Incredibly Kris Chesney was very briefly regarded as England's "new Lomu" before he returned to the Saracens' second row whence he came. Naturally the 6' 7" winger Matt Banahan is now England's new "new Jonah" although it's difficult to see any resemblance beyond the body art.

For most players being dubbed "the next Jonah Lomu" has proved a disaster and it was the kiss of death for Roland Reid, Scotland's pretender to the throne, so please don't mention the "L" word in connection with Edinburgh's next big thing. Anyway, the outsized speedster Tim Visser boasts his very own unique selling points: firstly he is Dutch and secondly he scores tries, lots of tries.

In his first year at Edinburgh he grabbed ten touchdowns to top the stats table, he was picked for the end-of-season Magners dream team and the then 22-year-old was voted the best young player in the league. That difficult second season at Edinburgh is proving anything but, panning out much like the first except for one key difference...Visser is scoring more freely that he did last time out. With the season approaching the half-way point the "Flying Dutchman" has claimed eight tries in just nine league appearances and this afternoon he goes in search of his first Heineken Cup score when Edinburgh host Castres at Murrayfield.

It's a dead rubber, at least from Edinburgh's perspective, but Rob Moffat's side have lost all three matches to date by narrow margins and feel that they have yet to benefit from the bounce of the ball. Edinburgh have high hopes of setting that record straight this afternoon, especially with Nick De Luca making his first appearance of the season and with their tried and tested scoring machine Visser restored to the side after a stomach bug. So, what's the secret of his success?

"I don't really know," says the Dutchman in perfectly-accented English. "I profit a lot from what other players do for me, which is the first thing, and I profit from the class Edinburgh has in the centres and the back row. Apart from that I work hard. I try to get myself around the pitch and I try to spot the opportunities that I can finish off. On top of that I think that there has been a couple of opportunities when I've scored a couple of individual tries."

Naturally enough Visser has been blessed with several natural advantages - standing 6' 4" tall and covering the ground at a decent lick can't hurt any - but his coach Rob Moffat insists that the winger has a real poacher's instinct for the try line.

"He likes scoring tries. He loves that aspect of play," says Moffat. "Tim is a natural finisher. He's like a soccer striker that doesn't do that much in a game and you wonder why he's there and then he pops up with the winning score."

A hat-trick of tries for Visser in a record-breaking five minute blitz against the Ospreys last season lends some credence to Moffat's assertion. One try against Ulster more recently saw the Dutchman beating three men up the left flank although he graciously admits that the score was as much about bad defending as it was any attacking excellence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Visser's father Marc is the Netherlands' most capped rugby international so taking up the sport was natural for the nine-year-old Tim back home, despite his mother's best efforts to cajole him into taking up netball, a popular mixed-sex sport in the Netherlands. Visser insists that rugby's rarity appealed to him although he also reveals that his home nation boasts 110 clubs plus four and a half thousand adult male players, which are respectable numbers.

Holland is ranked 42nd in the world although they might have jumped a few places if they managed to beat Hong Kong yesterday afternoon. It is just a small slice of a huge underbelly of rugby that takes place under the radar of the leading nations, especially across Europe. Visser laughs while recalling one age-grade grudge match between Holland and Belgium which ended in a 40-man free-for-all with subs and coaches included.

His brother Seb may be the younger of the siblings - he is currently in the Newcastle Falcons' academy - but while Junior has already claimed half a dozen Test caps for the Netherlands, Tim has resisted the call. He was first invited to join the national squad when he was playing at Newcastle and he didn't see the point in stepping down from Premiership rugby to play low-grade rugby, even if it was in Holland's famous orange colours. However, Visser may also have knocked back his country's call for other reasons; had he played for the Netherlands he would not be eligible to turn out for Scotland after qualifying on residency grounds in the middle of June, 2012 - presuming, of course, he gets the call.

"Look," he dusts down his prepared speech on the matter, "I have never officially said that I want to play for Scotland. I think words have been twisted. The official line is that I am not concentrating on Scotland at the moment, I am just concentrating on Edinburgh and on becoming a better player. But if the chance to play for Scotland ever arose then it would be stupid to say no because it is a great team and it's a great country with a great tradition and it's a big force in world rugby but it's not something that I've actually said: ‘I want to play for Scotland'. I will say ‘I want to play for Edinburgh' and if opportunities do arise in the future then we'll take it from there."

Scotland's backline needs a proven try-scorer like a drowning man needs Flipper, although it's too early to say that Visser is the answer and 18 months is an eon in professional rugby. At least it will give the Dutchman time to rub down a few rough edges because he is some way off the finished article. His decision-making in defence is especially suspect, which may have something to do with playing his teenage rugby in the back row of the scrum. Like Reid before him he made the move from wing forward to wing and while Visser is making a very decent fist of things he freely admits he has a long way to go. The only "L" word applicable to the Dutchman right now is "Learner".