How Harlequins plan to get Esterhuizen back in Bok squad
SPOTLIGHT: It’s now 26 months since Andre Esterhuizen – the so-called ‘Agent of Chaos’ – won the last of his eight Test caps for the Springboks, but Harlequins have explained what they have been getting up to with the powerhouse midfielder to help get him back into the international fold. Liam Heagney reports.
So valued is the South African at the Premiership club that he has been the emergency flyhalf in waiting in the matches this season where they haven’t picked a specialist sub No.10 on their bench.
“We have gone without a 10 on the bench at times this year and he has always been the guy that we have said, ‘Look, if the 10 has to go off you would slip straight in there’,” said attack coach Nick Evans about ‘The Giant’ Esterhuizen.
“When you think about it, if you had him, Luke Northmore, Huw Jones, Joe Marchant, there is quite a good ten, twelve, 13 there for us [without Marcus Smith and Tommaso Allan at ten].
“It is something we want to really work hard with him because is a part of his game he can really develop and he has certainly got the skills and the confidence to use it and we want to use it a bit more. He is an underestimated distributor. He has shown at times he can put a pass on the money.
“He has got a fantastic offloading game when he gets through contact. He has got a massive left foot, something that we probably haven’t used, and it is certainly something with him that we can use subtly in terms of around our distribution. Hopefully, we can add that bit more to his bow and be that kind of run, pass, kick threat that we think he can be.”
It was January 2020 when Harlequins trumpeted the capture of Esterhuizen from the Sharks in Durban and a contract extension signed in September this year will now see the South African remain at the English club until 2025. That is a show of loyalty that has left Evans determined to do his utmost to get the Premiership title-winning midfielder back into the Springboks set-up.
“I certainly hoped for it when we were watching his videos,” said Evans when quizzed on the huge influence that Esterhuizen is now wielding on the type of game being played by Harlequins, who this Sunday host London rivals Saracens at The Stoop. “When he arrived just the presence of the guy to be honest when he was training, he certainly commanded that respect and remember he is an international and the way he spoke he offered his thought process around parts of our game and it has been fascinating just to see him go out there.
“He is titanic in those collisions and he gives a real focal point around our attack, especially off the set-piece. It is certainly something we have talked about with him and how we can get him into the game, and he wants the ball in his hands as much as he can and we want to try and help him develop parts of his game in terms of distribution and his kicking game.
“He still strives and wants to be part of the South African set-up. I certainly thought his form warranted a close look towards the end of the season and he was probably pretty unlucky in the end not to get a call-up. We are working really hard to try and get him back into the South African squad.
“I know that might not be great for us but we want him to improve and be a better rugby player. He has been fantastic for us and has certainly helped our 10s. I remember when I played I had Jordan Turner-Hall who you didn’t have to look at, you just gave it and let him run down the dark alley, so he [Esterhuizen] is certainly that guy for us but he offers so much more that we probably haven’t quite unlocked as much from him yet.”
By Liam Heagney, @RugbyPass