Pierre Schoeman: No sharks this time as Edinburgh prop returns home with nothing to prove

When Edinburgh played in South Africa last season Pierre Schoeman thought he’d use his local knowledge to take his team-mates on a diving trip to see sharks.

Unfortunately for the prop, heavy rain in Durban scuppered the plan and his team-mates had to turn back without seeing any big fish.

“The weather was probably more like Edinburgh!” he said. “Then we had to go all the way back again. So they mocked me and said it was more like a shark drive than a dive.”

Edinburgh are back in South Africa this week and will take on Schoeman’s former club the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, followed by the Stormers in Cape Town a week later.

Pierre Schoeman drives at Dragons' Ben Carter during Edinburgh's URC win at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

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Schoeman will leave the sightseeing to someone else this time around. He doesn’t feel he has to prove anything, and that extends to those in his homeland who he could have been playing alongside if his career had taken a different direction.

The loosehead represented South Africa Under-20s at the Junior World Championship in 2014, and scored a try in their win over Scotland. But his move to Edinburgh from the Bulls four years later took him on an altogether different path and he qualified for Scotland on residency grounds in 2021, making his debut against Tonga.

The Mbombela-born forward is comfortable with his decision and feels under no extra pressure on his return to Loftus Versfeld.

“No, I’ve nothing to prove for anybody except myself,” said Schoeman. “I’m very proud to play for Edinburgh and Scotland.

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Pierre Schoeman will face his former club, the Bulls. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“It’s really cool to play for Edinburgh against the Bulls at Loftus. These are my roots. It’s where I came from and played high-school rugby.

“Now I get to do it with my mates in Edinburgh. For me, that’s such a nice thing.”

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Rainy days in Durban were no bad thing for Schoeman and co last season as they managed to get the better of some other Sharks. Amid a biblical downpour, Mike Blair’s side achieved a landmark win over the former Super Rugby side at Kings Park Stadium. It was the first time a northern hemisphere team had won a United Rugby Championship game in South Africa.

Beating the Sharks was an important milestone in Blair’s first season in charge but the degree of difficulty increases this weekend, with the Bulls match taking place at 1350 metres above sea level.

“The altitude does play a role in these games as well as the physicality of the South African sides,” said Schoeman. “Mentally it can play a big part as well.

“I don’t have to kick or chuck 30-metre passes. Well, hopefully not! But for the guys that do these things, the distance changes.

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“It can take a little while to get used to it. But we’ve been trying to adjust.

“You can also use it to your advantage as well in terms of how you attack and defend.”

Just in case visitors get a little too complacent, a sign hangs in the Loftus tunnel that reads: “Altitude. 1350m. It matters.”

Edinburgh will need to show a head for heights.

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