Nel ready to join ‘special’ 200 club

Nel ready to join ‘special’ 200 club

The word legend is often thrown around in professional sports, but when describing WP Nel, there really aren’t many other superlatives to use when describing a player that has truly epitomised what it means to wear the castle on his chest for well over a decade.

Nel joined Edinburgh from South African franchise Cheetahs in 2012. Fresh faced, athletic and a fierce scrummager, the tighthead prop cemented his cult-like status from the get-go with a 40m solo try against Leinster that grows in distance every time the story is retold.

Fast-forward 12 years and Nel is still plying his trade at the coal face. A bit older, a bit wiser, and with four kids now part of the Nel clan in Scotland, the tighthead is gearing up to join another special club this weekend – the 200 club.

“It’s special. Not everyone gets to play 200 games,” said Nel.

“To be part of Edinburgh Rugby for 12 years and get to 200 games, it’s definitely special. To be in that club with Chris Paterson and Allan Jacobsen is awesome.

“I wouldn’t have thought I’d play 100 games, so to play 200 is special. To do it here in Cape Town would be awesome.”

Edinburgh Rugby all-time appearance list

273 – Allan Jacobsen
205 – Chris Paterson
199 – Ross Ford
199 – WP Nel
198 – Grant Gilchrist
177 – Stuart McInally
169 – Mike Blair
164 – Andy Kelly
159 – Craig Smith
151 – Hamish Watson
151 – Phil Godman

Nel will join just two other double-centurions – Chris Paterson and Allan Jacobsen – when he takes to the field at DHL Stadium this weekend.

It’s a fitting location for a special appearance given Nel’s rugby journey started in Cape Town at Western Province back in 2008.

Nel’s wife Alana still has family in the region while the prop could be up against some familiar teammates from his time in the Western Cape.

“My wife’s family lives quite close to Cape Town so on the off days we’ll make time to go and see them,” said Nel.

“There could be a chance I see Brok Harris on Saturday too. When I played under-20s he was there [Western Province] and just breaking through to The Stormers.

“We go back quite a while. We were quite good friends, and it would be awesome to go against him – two old men who would just take each other on.”

Saturday’s clash against DHL Stormers sees Edinburgh Rugby return to BKT United Rugby Championship action in fourth place.

It’s an important match-up against last season’s runners-up, and the 2021/22 Champions, with every point key in the race for the URC play-offs.

“It will definitely be a different challenge, especially with where they are in the table as well,” continued Nel.

“They’ll want to get a win and get up in the table. We need to be on top of our game this weekend so that’s what we’ll need to do to get the win.

“Play-offs are definitely something we talked about at the beginning of the season. We want to get as high up the table as possible and to be fourth is definitely something to play for. We know home advantage when it comes to the play-offs is really important.”

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