New arrival Philip van der Walt has found nothing but favourable first impressions from his opening few days as a Newcastle Falcons player.
The back-row forward touched down on Tyneside last weekend to begin his three-year deal with the Kingston Park club, having joined from South African Super Rugby side the Sharks.
“It has been great so far,” said the 6 foot 4 forward, who turned 30 a fortnight ago.
“I landed on Sunday and went straight for lunch with our director of rugby Dean Richards, who showed me a bit of the area and talked me through things. From there I was straight into some training during the early part of the week, meeting the boys, and the early impressions are really good.
“The training facilities and the work ethic here are really impressive, the weather is a little bit different from Durban but I’m really pleased with everything I’ve seen and happy that I made the move.”
Acclimatising to life in the North East, Van der Walt said: “This is my first time in the UK, so as much as I might have read about things and done a bit of research that way, it’s not until you’re here that you get a real impression.
“Of course I’ve seen some of the games on TV back home, and I’ve since watched some Newcastle matches on our players’ app. The standard seems really high.
“The one thing I’ve struggled with is the local Geordie accent, but luckily I’ve got Kyle Cooper here as my translator!
“I know Kyle from back home because we came through the same age-group, and I also played for a couple of seasons with him at the Sharks. It’s really useful to have him here right at the start just to kind of get the lay of the land, and I know Tim Swiel from having played against him, but all the boys have been really welcoming and I’m looking forward to getting to know them better.
“I also have two young daughters who will be coming over with my wife in the next month or two once I’ve sorted out a permanent place, and it’s such a nice region up here that we certainly have plenty of choice about where we decide to live.
“You can probably say there aren’t too many similarities between Newcastle and Biarritz, where I've also played, but with things like the travel and having to adapt to a new culture I think it’s probably useful that I’ve experienced that, along with my time out in Japan.”
Keen to get cracking in his new surroundings, the back-five forward said: “My last game was in May for the Sharks during the Super Rugby season, but unfortunately I picked up a shoulder injury which meant I missed the end of the campaign.
“The break, even though it was forced by injury, has been good for me, and I’m keen now to get working and playing again.
“From what I’ve seen, the guys work really hard here and they’re really dedicated to their training. The rugby side of things will become a bit clearer in the coming weeks because I’ve only had a couple of days’ training so far, but the level of rugby during the sessions has been very high.”
Asked about what supporters can expect from their most recent acquisition, Van der Walt stated: “I’m dedicated, I play with my heart on my sleeve and I’m just a guy who will try my very best every time I’m out there.
“That’s probably the biggest thing the supporters can expect from me, and I’ll walk off the field tired, knowing I’ve given everything I could. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to run with the ball, because I do enjoy that, and then the physical aspect of the English game is something which I also think will suit me.”
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