Van der Walt glad to be in the Falcons’ mix

Wednesday 04 December 2019 Written by: Adam

The 30-year-old South African underwent shoulder surgery in the summer following his signing from Super Rugby side the Sharks, making a long-awaited debut during last Friday’s 50-10 home win over Hartpury.

Showing some neat touches at the base of the scrum and with his link work in general play, Van der Walt is now able to report positive impressions on the field as well as off it.

“It was definitely not the best start to arrive with an injury – you probably feel left out a bit when you’re in that situation but it’s great now to be in the thick of things,” he said.

“My family have settled in nicely, the people in the North East seem really friendly and it hasn’t been difficult at all from an off-field perspective. Now that I’m within the team environment things are a lot better on the rugby side, because nobody wants to be out injured.”

Even in his absence the Falcons have made an unbeaten start to the season which now stretches into double figures, Newcastle going for their 11th successive victory on Saturday when they visit Doncaster Knights in the Championship Cup.

“With the benefit of hindsight my time in the stands has at least given me a good chance to see what the team is about, so that when I did finally come in I had a decent idea of what we were trying to do,” said Van der Walt.

“It’s great to be coming into a team which has won every game, and I suppose the upshot of that is that every team you’re playing against is really up for it because they all want to take the top scalp in the division. That’s doubly so away from home, and it’s a great test of character to see how we come through that challenge.”

Looking back on his debut, Van der Walt reflected on a game which saw them scoring twice inside the opening ten minutes before a mid-game lull, Newcastle adding 35 points in the last half-hour to enjoy a 40-point triumph.

He said: “It was just lovely to be back on the park again and to have the chance to prove my worth.

“After a couple of early tries we didn’t have the best spell during the rest of the first half, but the boys really pulled it together after half-time. We’ve reviewed that and worked on some things to correct it in the future, and I’m just excited to finally be involved with the team.

“Upon reflection the problems really started for us last week when we went off-plan, and the coaches helped pull us together at half-time. We performed better from there, especially from a defensive point of view in terms of getting off the line quickly, and we put Hartpury under pressure.

“We need to be better at managing those situations in the future, and crucially we need to stay within our system even when things seem to be going well with a couple of early tries.

“The times when we’ve looked our best is when we speed up the play and get the ball going through the hands, and in defence when we’ve hit the opposition with line-speed. Those are the things that will make teams a little bit flustered.

“When you look back over the season we’ve had a few close shaves away from home, and the task for the team is to try and add some more daylight between the scores. That comes from having a good start, sticking to the plan and maintaining that focus from the start to the finish.”

Turning attention to Saturday’s assignment at Castle Park, Van der Walt said: “Doncaster are a good test for us physically, and we need to match them in that area.

“They’ll be coming hard at us, we need to match that early emotion and wear them down, and just construct a good innings rather than rushing to try and find that miracle play.

“We’ll respect them just like we would do with any team, and if we play a proper game rather than trying to rush things we’ll be able to handle whatever they throw at us.

“Nobody here wants to drop a game, and to go the whole season unbeaten would be a big statement.

“The way you do that is just by thinking of the next game and not getting ahead of yourself, so all we’re concentrating on is Doncaster on Saturday. It’s another chance for us to build our game and build our confidence, which gives us the kind of base that we want moving into the longer term.”