Esterhuizen is like a 'tighthead lock playing in the No.12 jersey'
REACTION: Harlequins assistant coach Jerry Flannery has paid Andre Esterhuizen an awesome tribute after the out-of-favour Springboks midfielder produced a powerhouse display to help the London club secure a dramatic late victory over Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership on Saturday.
The 27-year-old hasn’t been capped by his country since August 2019 but the English champions simply can’t get enough of the so-called ‘Agent of Chaos’ they have under contract through to 2025.
Despite pressurising an Exeter side that played the entire second half with just 14 players following a red card for Alec Hepburn on the blow of half-time, Harlequins found themselves trailing 7-12 with less than two minutes remaining.
However, that scoreline was soon transformed into a thrilling 14-12 win, Esterhuizen sliding through the mud to score a converted Harlequins try in the corner after he caught a crossfield kick from Marcus Smith.
The centre then showcased his immense prowess in defence, turning over Exeter possession at the game’s final ruck to seal the win for Harlequins and ensure he was incredibly awarded the player of the match award for the third game in a row.
Amid the post-mortem, line-out and defence coach Flannery popped up on BT Sport to sing the praises of a talisman whose stats showed four carries, 26 metres, one turnover won and four gainline successes.
“Look, the key for games like this is to make things a contest and Andre is a complete player,” enthused the coach about the South African. “His distribution, it is basically like having a tighthead lock playing in the 12 jersey who can catch and pass as good as anybody else. He has got a fantastic left foot on him as well. He has been outstanding for us. We are very, very lucky to have him.”
😍 “To close a game out like that was pretty nice, I loved it!”
👊 Andre smashed it again.ADVERTISEMENT
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) January 8, 2022
Esterhuizen was chuffed his efforts were recognised for the third weekend in succession, following on from his player of the match efforts versus Northampton and Gloucester.
“I almost missed it [the turnover] just by milliseconds. To close the game out like that was pretty nice. I loved it,” said Esterhuizen.
“I am loving life at the moment. I never get these [awards] so to get three in a row is something for me. I am just very grateful. A lot of credit to the team. They do all the hard work. Sometimes I just run in through the gaps, so credit to them.”
Asked how Harlequins had managed to keep their composure rather than buckle when in arrears against an opposition down a man following a tip tackle that resulted in Joe Marler landing on his head, Esterhuizen added: “Whenever there is a red card or something in a game, the team relaxes a bit.
“We just said we needed to up the focus, we need to put the pressure on them and keep them under that pressure. Alex [Dombrandt] spoke quite well under the posts, ‘Just stay calm, get there, trap them there, something will come. If we get the turnovers something will come’.
“It was a great game. It is always hard against Exeter. The weather didn’t play in anyone’s favour. A hard-fought victory. We let ourselves down a little bit in the second half when we had them on the ropes, just didn’t convert, but it is always great playing against them and always a tough challenge.”
By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass