TIM Visser has been winging it for Edinburgh Rugby for the last six seasons and for the first four of them he could not stop scoring tries. He topped the try tally in the Pro12 at the end of 2010, 2011, 2012 and in 2013. And then... his stats fell off a cliff.
He has five league tries to his name this season, which doesn’t sound too bad until you realise that he scored 14 in his 2010-11 heyday. The slump coincided with Alan Solomons taking over as coach and, while Visser has suffered more than his fair share of injuries of late, the change of coach and change of game plan placed the Dutchman in a straitjacket. He twiddles his thumbs in between chasing high kicks as Edinburgh have morphed from an all-out attacking team into something less adventurous.
‘We’ve suddenly become a good defensive team that can’t score tries’
“We were able to score a lot of tries in the past and it came fairly easy to us, but we couldn’t defend even if our lives depended on it,” Visser conceded. “We’re now a completely different team and can all defend, even myself. We can hold teams out and we’ve suddenly become a good defensive team that can’t score tries.”
He has a point. Edinburgh’s tally of 33 league tries this season (ahead of last night’s game against Munster) is 20 shy of Glasgow. Gregor Townsend’s team are league leaders but Edinburgh even trail Connacht by five and no one has ever accused the Irish province of scoring freely.
Visser is joining Harlequins next season. He makes all the right noises about different challenges and a different environment but the fact remains that the new-look Edinburgh don’t suit him, unlike his new outfit. The London club ripped up the rule book by winning the Aviva Premiership in 2012 with a fast, handling, off-loading game. Visser is wasted at Edinburgh and he knows it.
If Solomons’ game plan doesn’t suit the Dutchman, at least some of his other innovations meet with the winger’s approval, not least the tight-knit squad that helped Edinburgh win the 1872 Cup this season, a first for Visser, and edge out London Irish in last weekend’s nail-biting European quarter-final.
“Being able to beat Scarlets away, something I’ve never been able to do, and the position we were in the last 20 minutes against Irish is not a position that we would have closed out in the last couple of seasons,” said the Dutchman. “Showing that we could do that, even though we made it tight, shows how much we’ve come on as a team.
“It’s also probably the best group of players in terms of character and determination that I’ve ever been a part of. It’s a very tight group and we’re all good friends and that’s a lot to do with Alan Solomons. He’s brought the right characters in first and foremost and you can see that on and off the pitch.
“We’ve had a lot of talent in the past, lots of very good players, but not had the team cohesion that we’re having at the moment, and for me it’s been a real eye-opener to see what effects that can have and what it does on the pitch.”
If Edinburgh play to their potential against the Dragons on Friday, the Dutchman could get an early preview of his new ground since the Challenge Cup final takes place at Harlequins’ Stoop Memorial Ground in west London the night before the Champions Cup final, but he warns against complacency.
“Dragons are a very physical team, very direct at the breakdown, but if needed they can play wide, fancy rugby as well, so they’re a very dangerous team and we’re not going to be underestimating them, even though we’re at home.”
It would be nice to think that Visser could grab the winner against the Welsh outfit but he may have to go looking for the ball because it doesn’t often go looking for him these days.