Philip van der Walt agrees three-year extension
The South African has made 32 appearances since joining from the Sharks three years ago, having previously played with French club Biarritz, Japanese side Canon Eagles and South Africa’s Free State Cheetahs.
Van der Walt said: “I’m very grateful to have been offered the opportunity to extend my time here for another three years, and I want to thank Dean Richards for having the faith in me to make this possible. It’s not something I would ever take for granted, and I have gladly taken the offer.
“My family and I are really stoked to be able to stay here. For me, I just want to help build on what we’ve done so far, and whilst I know there are a lot of improvements needed I’m just excited that I will be part of that process for the club.”
Elaborating on his decision to remain on Tyneside, he added: “First and foremost you want to enjoy your work, and I definitely do that with the Falcons.
“The people here are great, I’ve become good mates with the lads at Newcastle and enjoyed working with all of the coaches. We have a good understanding, and then outside of that it’s really important that life away from rugby is really good. That’s definitely the case in Newcastle, and if your family aren’t happy it makes it hard for you to perform at the level you need to.
“There are no issues on that side, we’re all loving being in Newcastle and we’ve made great friends away from the club as well. The people up here are great, everyone’s so friendly and I enjoy the fact it’s not as busy as some other cities. Everything you need is on your doorstep, so you can go to the Lake District, the coast, the city or the countryside, all within a short space of time. It’s just a good fit all round, and if something works, why fix it?”
Having missed a chunk of the season with a knee injury, Van der Walt is now back fit and in contention for selection for Friday’s home game against London Irish.
He said: “It’s always disappointing whenever you have an injury, but at the same time it’s also an opportunity to reflect and look at how you can improve on certain things.
“I’ve worked hard physically in the gym to try and better myself, and I’m very comfortable with where my knee is at. I feel like I’ve come back stronger, and I’m just looking forward to playing with the lads again.
“The only thing I would say from a negative side regarding having an injury, it’s the isolation that really hurts you. You feel like you’re all by yourself, and I’m looking forward to this last block of games now that I’m fit again, and just trying to be involved.”
The Falcons beat London Irish 52-27 on their last visit to Kingston Park 11 months ago, and Van der Walt admits Newcastle are out for revenge on Friday following the 43-21 loss they suffered in Brentford last December.
“London Irish are a strong team who have done really well at times, and we had a bad loss down there earlier this season,” he said.
“We owe them one, and it’s still fresh in my mind the way we played against them up here last season when we had a really good win. I’m hoping we can replicate that, and I think it will be a good match-up. They had a big win at home to Castres last weekend in Europe, and it’ll be a good test for us.”
Giving short shrift to the theory that there is nothing riding on the Falcons’ remaining four games, the South African said: “We want to keep improving, and there’s still a lot to play for. We’ll never back down, and everyone has been working really hard this week to improve the way we’re playing.
“There’s always something to play for. Whether it’s only your professional pride – that’s enough.
“I think more so, when you’re involved with any competitive sport, and it’s just the nature of the people involved that they have an incredible will to win.
“I don’t think having no relegation makes any difference – at least it doesn’t to me – and every time we play, we play to win. That’s even more the case when you’ve had a tough season like we have, and there’s a massive motivation for us to finish strongly.”
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