Richard Cockerill has his say on Jaco van der Walt’s Scotland call-up and the residency rule

Richard Cockerill has backed Jaco van der Walt to be a success at Test level and defended the residency rule that has allowed the stand-off to join fellow South Africans Duhan van der Merwe and WP Nel in the Scotland squad after three years at Edinburgh.
Jaco van der Walt in action for Edinburgh.Jaco van der Walt in action for Edinburgh.
Jaco van der Walt in action for Edinburgh.

Van der Walt will link up with the national side for the final Autumn Nations Cup match against as yet unknown opponents next weekend.

Born in Randfontein near Johannesburg, the stand-off will give Scotland another option at ten following injuries to Finn Russell and Adam Hastings. Duncan Weir played there in the last two matches, against Italy and France.

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Cockerill, the Edinburgh coach, believes van der Walt has the qualities to make the transition to international rugby but has warned he will find it tough to dislodge Weir and overtake Russell and Hastings in the pecking order when the pair return to fitness.

“He is a very good player and someone who kicks his goals very well and is very physical and takes the ball to the line,” said Cockerill.

“He is a good defender and he is learning how to control the game by managing the people around him.

“He will have to be very good to compete with Duncan Weir, who is playing well at the moment, and Finn and Adam are very good players. He will have to up his game to get in front of either of these guys.

“He is a good lad, a good player but until he plays at Test level you never really know, do you? He has worked really hard at his game and is very committed to want to qualify and play for Scotland. We are very proud we have another player in the squad who will potentially get an opportunity.”

Cockerill’s pride at van der Walt’s call up has been tempered slightly by the loss of another player to national service. He will now be without 13 Scotland players and Fiji international Mesu Kunavula for Monday’s Pro14 game against Ulster.

Van der Walt became Scottish qualified on 16 November after fulfilling the three-year residency requirement. World Rugby has agreed to extend the rule to five years at the end of 2021 which will allow another of Edinburgh’s South African contingent Pierre Schoeman to qualify for Scotland under the old rule.

“I’m delighted for Jaco, whether you love the residency rules or not is irrelevant,” said Cockerill. “He’s a good man, and I’m sure Scotland will be happy to have him like they will be to have Pierre Schoeman in a few months’ time, like they are with Duhan, like they are with WP Nel, and others before them.”

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England coach Eddie Jones had a pop at Ireland last week for exploiting the residency rule, while blithely ignoring his own side’s willingness to use it.

“I wouldn’t take too much notice of Eddie Jones,” added Cockerill. “He’s quite happy to have the players who are residency-qualified for England.

“We play by the regulations that are there, I wouldn’t blame the individual, or the country or the coach. Does it devalue [the cap]? I don’t think it does, if you qualify and you’re better than the people that are born and bred in that country, that’s competition, that’s life and that’s the way it works.”

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