‘Edinburgh legend’ Nel pens one-year extension
Edinburgh Rugby centurion and Scotland internationalist WP Nel today penned a new one-year deal that will see the tighthead prop remain in the Scottish capital for the 2023/24 season.
The fan favourite will now enter his 12th season in Edinburgh – having joined from Cheetahs in 2012 – giving him the opportunity to add to his 186 appearances in the capital front row, a total only bettered by fellow club legend front-rowers Ross Ford (199) and Allan Jacobsen (273).
Nel is currently fifth on the club’s all-time appearance list – behind Jacobsen, Chris Paterson (205), Ross Ford and Grant Gilchrist (188) – while his 268 club and representative rugby appearances in all competitions are the 12th most by a tighthead prop in the pro era.
Still operating at the pinnacle of the sport, Nel, 36, featured in four of Scotland’s recent Guinness Six Nations matches – starting the Calcutta Cup victory at Twickenham – and will soon set his mind on a third Rugby World Cup with the national side.
The tighthead has also enjoyed good form at club level, most notably in an 80-minute display in January’s Heineken Champions Cup triumph against Saracens, where he won a last-minute scrum penalty to seal the victory in front of a fervent home support.
The one-year extension is expected be Nel’s final season in an impressive career, which has so far seen the tighthead make 345 professional appearances, including 54 caps for Scotland.
Nel said: “I’m really happy to have signed a new deal with Edinburgh Rugby. It’s a club that means so much to me and the city is home for me and my family. We love it here and plan to continue life here after rugby.
“My body still feels great, which was a massive factor in signing a new deal. I still feel like I can make an impact at the top level, so I want to do continue doing that for another season with a club that has backed me for over a decade of my career.
He continued: “Next year will probably be my last in professional rugby. If I can bring success to the team while providing leadership and advice to the younger props in the squad, then I can’t think of a better way to go out.
“Rugby has given me so much in life. I might be one of the older guys but I’m still hugely competitive and know I can be one of the best in my position on any given day. It will be an honour to pull on the Edinburgh jersey for another season.”
Nel began his rugby career at Durbanville Belville Rugby Club in Cape Town, where impressive performances saw him earn a place in the nearby Western Province side.
As a stand-out for Western Province in the 2008 Vodacom Cup, he was loaned to Boland Kaveliers to compete in the Currie Cup, where he was spotted, and then snapped up by Free State Cheetahs.
Nel stayed a Cheetahs for four years from his Super Rugby debut against Waratahs at the tail end of 2009. The tighthead’s form then caught the eye of Edinburgh Rugby, who signed him on a three-year contract in the summer of 2012, where he has plied his trade ever since.
The front-row qualified to play for Scotland through residency in 2015, and made his debut for the national team against Italy in Turin, before playing a pivotal role throughout the subsequent Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign.
Nel surpassed the 100-appearance mark with Edinburgh against Leinster in September 2016 and from there his impressive form continued into the 2018/19 season, typified by a Man of the Match performance against Montpellier, which helped Edinburgh secure passage to the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup.
After a second Rugby World Cup in Japan (2019) – where he continued to play a pivotal role in the Scottish pack – the tighthead was back to his best for his club as Edinburgh Rugby reached the Semi-Finals of the then Guinness PRO14 in 2020.
Nel then reached a landmark half-century of caps for Scotland in the 2022 Autumn Nation Series, coming off the bench against the All Blacks at BT Murrayfield.
Head Coach Mike Blair added: “WP [Nel] is a true Edinburgh legend and someone that inspires the players around him because of his commitment to representing the club and tenacity to be the best in his position.
“He’s a different beast and that’s shown in his performances for both Edinburgh and Scotland throughout his career and again this season, where his energy levels and eagerness to make an impact have been through the roof.
“We’re truly delighted WP has chosen to sign a one-year extension with the club. He epitomises what it means to be an Edinburgh man and there’s no doubt he’ll be champing at the bit when the 23/24 season comes around.”