AS a former Shark, Anton Bresler has experienced some of the biggest, toughest and best-attended derbies that world rugby has to offer against the Bulls of Pretoria or the Cape Town Stormers and the big lock is still energised by the thought of Saturday’s re-enactment of the oldest ever regional clash.
As Edinburgh prepare to head along the M8 to face Glasgow at Scotstoun in the first leg of the 1872 Cup clash, with a second leg at Murrayfield looming on 2 January, Bresler has tapped into the excitement the festive double-header is capable of generating.
“Being here for some time now, when I got here the boys started speaking about Glasgow/Edinburgh games and all the rest of it,” said Bresler yesterday.
“The longer you spend here the more it grows on you what this derby clash means, like we all know a derby game is huge. There is a lot of pride at stake.
“There are only two [pro] teams in Scotland so whichever one wins, that is your best team in Scotland. I mean it’s massive. A lot of boys are hungry for this game. I mean this is the game that everyone really just wants to play, this is what everyone looks forward to, playing against some of their friends.”
The big South African lock may have signed a three-year contract with Edinburgh which strongly suggests that he is earmarked as a “project player”, one who will be expected to make himself available for Scotland when he has served his three-year residency, but if that is the cunning plan, no one seems to have informed Bresler.
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When the big fella is asked if his form for Edinburgh might elicit some interest from the Springboks’ selectors, he is nothing if not game.
“I hope so! I hope so. I really hope so,” he replies enthusiastically. “If the Springboks’ selectors are watching, are following my career, all I can do is play my best. I can’t phone them up. It’s all on their terms.”
Why didn’t he just target Namibia, the country of his birth, who have already booked their place in Rugby World Cup 2015? His cousin Tinus du Plessis turned out for them during the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand and did enough to earn a contract at Wasps. “The thing is, I was only really born there,” Bresler replies. “I’ve got family there, a lot of people ask me this, but I am actually a South African boy, that is the team I will support in the World Cup.
“I don’t know much about Namibia, except my whole family being born there, but my heart lies in South Africa.”
So if his heart lies in South Africa, what does Bresler think of turning out in the navy blue of Scotland one day?
“If that option comes up I will definitely look at it.”
So far, so confused...but any foreign player coming to Scotland would be well advised to steer clear of the second row, which is one area on the park that gives Scotland coach Vern Cotter a headache for all the right reasons. Scotland already boasts the likes of Jim Hamilton, Richie Gray, Grant Gilchrist, Tim Swinson and, of course, Bresler’s opposite number on Saturday coming. If Jonny Gray isn’t the coming man it is only because the 20-year-old has already arrived as Bresler gracefully acknowledges.
“I have seen and heard a lot of Jonny Gray,” says the South African. “I watched the last match against Munster when he came out with the man-of-the-match award and he thoroughly deserved it. He gets around the park and he workrate is really good.
“(Leone) Nakarawa is also a clever ball player, he runs well with the ball, so they totally deserve to be in the starting line-up.
“Jonny (Gray) has to prove himself, especially in a match like this. This is a derby game and he needs to prove himself for the Scottish jersey...which he has...but you always have to make sure you are up for it.”
Bresler talks about a trip to Loch Lomond where the scenery and landscape evoked memories of his South African homeland. You can take the South African out of South Africa but you can’t etc etc. He is just one of Alan Solomons’ foreign legion who arrived with excellent credentials but who have yet to fulfil their full potential, although a broken rib and a torn knee ligament may have contributed.
If Edinburgh are to get anything from Saturday’s match Bresler is going to have to find the best of himself at Scotstoun.
The life of a professional player doesn’t leave much free time, but Bresler has managed one previous trip to Glasgow, a shopping expedition with is wife where, he insists, he hurried past any expensive-looking shops.
“I found it pretty nice,” he says of Glasgow. “I really enjoyed it.”
If Bresler can say the same thing after his second trip to Scotland’s biggest city, then Edinburgh Rugby and their South African lock will have sprung a major surprise.
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