Jaco Van der Walt cites influence of Duncan Hodge for his improvement at Edinburgh

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Edinburgh Rugby stand-off Jaco van der Walt believes working with former Scotland cap Duncan Hodge has accelerated his development and allowed him to become first-choice No 10 at the club.

His unheralded signing in mid-season did not dominate the back pages, but he has played in ten matches in the Guinness Pro14 and European Rugby Challenge Cup and impressed many with the way he can control a game.

Jaco van der Walt enjoys the challenge of Scottish weather. Picture: SNS.

Jaco van der Walt enjoys the challenge of Scottish weather. Picture: SNS.

Indeed such has been the impact of the South African, who turned 24 last month, that fellow No 10s Duncan Weir and Jason Tovey have been told they can leave in the summer.

Next term he will battle it out with incoming Simon Hickey for the starting jersey and for now Van der Walt’s thoughts are on keeping Edinburgh in the top three of the Pro14 Conference B and progressing in Europe.

“I didn’t perhaps expect to have played so many games by now, but I am enjoying it,” he said ahead of the Pro14 clash with Munster at BT Murrayfield tomorrow evening. “I have enjoyed working with Edinburgh backs coach Duncan Hodge [below]. He’s a very good coach. When he goes through my video clips with me after each game I learn so much from him.

“In South Africa, they rotate you quite a lot, so starting week in and week out been tough, but it’s been good. I believe the more games I play the better I get.

“It’s wet and cold – I’m used to playing in dry, sunny weather where you can throw the ball around. So, it’s been difficult, but a good challenge.

“I never liked playing in the wet weather and now all I get is wet weather, but I believe it makes me better. I love the way we play. It suits me. I really like playing running rugby, so, it’s all good.

“The weather obviously has a big impact on the way you play. Over here, you have to play smart with your kicking game, while back at home we don’t kick a lot, but, like I said, you need to adapt.

“Don’t get me wrong, we still want to play running rugby at Edinburgh and I think the style we play here suits me a lot because there are good players around me.”

Head coach Richard Cockerill has talked a lot about the culture he wants to create in the capital going forward – and Van der Walt has certainly felt at home very quickly.

“The culture is very good. The boys have welcomed me with open arms, which has been really nice,” he explained. “Already you can see the difference from what people said was here before; the culture is really good, there is a brotherhood around the boys.

“If you are that close you will always back each other on and off the field, which is really important.

“It’s nice coming in on Mondays when you get a win at the weekend, so the vibe is good.

“I sat with some of the Edinburgh boys and watched the Scotland game at the weekend and I feel like I’m a Scottish guy now!”