'Hell of a journey' for Scottish Jonah Lomu
Date: November 8 2012
EDINBURGH: Tim Visser looks like a lock, speaks like a Dutchman and once dreamed of emulating Jonah Lomu and Tana Umaga.
Hence he's not difficult to spot at the Scottish rugby team announcement where he is about the only person convincingly optimistic about Monday's test against the All Blacks.
Scotland's Flying Dutchman's entry to international rugby has been much-hyped since he scored two tries against Fiji in his Test debut in June.
It was no surprise to those who have seen the left wing dominate the Magners League with Edinburgh, the top try scorer for the past three seasons.
Not bad for a bloke who grew up in the football-obsessed Netherlands and didn't know professional rugby existed till he entered it.
"Rugby's a minority sport [in the Netherlands], but it's growing and participation levels are growing every year with the youth getting into it," he said this week.
"The thing is though it's not professional so there's no real funding for it. That's why the level we are at is stagnant. It's not really moving forward."
So how does a 1.93m, 109kg Dutchman who grew up in a country where rugby is dead in the water, end up playing a test match against the All Blacks?
"My dad always played rugby and I just followed in his footsteps. It was really a family sport, our friends our whole social circle was around the rugby club and I just sort of couldn't avoid it," Visser said.
"It's brilliant. As a kid not knowing there was such a thing as professional rugby and now being in it. Now being at international top level. It's been a hell of a journey."
Visser was plucked out of a sevens tournament in Amsterdam by Newcastle as a teenager and went on to represent England Schools at lock.
But it was watching players like Lomu and Umaga that drew him to the outside backs.
"We used to get the BBC in Holland so we'd watch the autumn internationals, the World Cup and see the Six Nations, stuff like that," Visser said. "We were aware of it, so we could follow most of the top nations in the world.
"Jonah Lomu, back in the day, that's where the whole wing thing started for me, especially on the left, it started being a bit bigger and the hype started. I did start in the back row for a little bit, but didn't enjoy it and ended up on the wing.
"There was [Tana] Umaga and a few other big names, but he [Lomu] was definitely the standout [influence]."
There is a touch of Lomu about Visser's size and pace with ball in hand and he can manhandle his opponents in defence too. He expects he'll be marking Cory Jane and says he plans to exploit his size advantage.
Which is a hint at perhaps his greatest asset for the Scots - his confidence.
"These games really get you going and I tend to perform in the bigger games, so hopefully that will come into play on Sunday," he said.
"You have to respect them, but at the same time it is just a game and whoever executes their game plan better on the day will win the game.
"We have to go in with confidence in our ability and the game plan. We have clear instructions on how to play the game."
So do you think you will win?" he was asked.
"I always think I will win."
Fairfax NZ News