Pierre Schoeman on his Scotland breakthrough, Saracens test and being an Edinburgh cult hero
Of the 12 players given their debut by Scotland over the course of the autumn series, Pierre Schoeman was the only one to play in all four matches, embedding himself in the national team with impressive speed.
The Edinburgh prop made the step up with the minimum of fuss, quickly finding his feet at Test level. After scoring a try on his debut against Tonga, Schoeman was again picked to start against both Australia and South Africa before ending the campaign with a substitute’s appearance against Japan.
It was a highly satisfactory introduction to Test rugby for the South African-born loosehead who qualified for Scotland in the summer after fulfilling the three-year residency requirement.
A former Junior Springbok - he scored a try against Scotland at the 2014 Junior World Championship - Schoeman’s route to international rugby has not been straightforward but he never doubted his ability to make the grade.
“It’s been truly amazing playing for all the fans at Murrayfield for Scotland,” he said. “I always believed I wanted to play international and I’m good enough. But you really have to put the work in and be consistent.
“I’ve always believed I would play international rugby since I was young. So I’m very proud of that, and the thing I learned the most in those four weeks with Scotland was consistency - whether you’re representing your club or Scotland, just being your best every rep, every training.
“That’s how you keep on your game as an international player, I believe, and grow. You learn from the experienced players and the coaching staff as well.”
Schoeman has had to bide his time since making the decision to commit to Scotland but at 27 he is coming into his prime as a prop.
Rory Sutherland’s side muscle injury on the eve of the Autumn Nations Series afforded Schoeman more minutes than he perhaps might have expected but he seized the opportunity and the occasion was made all the more special because his mother, Mari, came over from South Africa to watch him in two of the Tests.
“Me and my wife haven’t been to South Africa for three and a half years now. But fortunately my mum came to watch two Tests. She watched the Springboks game as well as the Japan match.
“She enjoyed Scotland - we showed her all over Scotland, went quickly to York and then got out of England again and back to Scotland. So that was amazing.”
Three wins from four was a more than decent return for Gregor Townsend’s side, with the only defeat coming against the world champion Springboks. The win over Australia was particularly pleasing and it sets up Scotland for a tilt at the Six Nations in the new year.
Before that, Schoeman will turn his attention to club duties over a busy festive period which will see Edinburgh travel to London to take on Saracens on Saturday and then face Glasgow Warriors in the 1872 Cup double-header.
He is grateful to Mike Blair for allowing him time off after the international window and will now look to repay the Edinburgh coach by helping the club maintain the form that sees them go into this weekend’s European Challenge Cup tie on the back of four wins in a row.
“I always knew the challenge is coming back to play for Edinburgh and to be at my best - to be consistent as well. I had a good week off - thanks Mike - and just came back from zero and worked hard again.”
Saracens away will be a searching test of how far Edinburgh have come under Blair but it is one Schoeman is relishing.
“These are the games you want to play,” he said. “I’m not saying there’s easy games, I’m just saying it’s nice to play in the big matches - the set-piece battles, the physicality is a bit more up there, it’s more of a challenge, everyone wants to win. And it’s nice to play a Premier side - we don’t get that opportunity much, and when it comes it’s nice to prep well and do good against them.
“We feel very confident. It’s about the mentality in that 80 minutes. Sometimes you prep so well and then it’s a bad day at the office, or vice versa. But yeah, I’m feeling very confident. Our set-piece battle, our kicking, we learn a lot from the experienced players and the coaches, so it’s exciting going down there.”
Schoeman, who signed for Edinburgh in summer of 2018 from the Bulls, quickly found a place in the affections of the capital side’s fans with a string of wholehearted performances. He ended his debut season as Edinburgh’s player of the year and was named in the Guinness Pro14 Dream Team and the “Schoey” chant that follows him on to the field has helped make him a cult hero at the club.
“It’s really nice to get a hype with the fans and be emotionally invested and involved as well,” he said “You’re playing for them when you’re representing your club - it’s never your jersey, you know. There have been legends before you and there will be legends after you.
“So it’s just giving your best in that jersey. But it’s nice. I think with the hero thing you have to work hard and stay on your game and perform at your best - don’t get arrogant. You can get confident, but not arrogant.”
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