“I’m too South African to play for England”
Wary of how opponents can “start to understand you”, Esterhuizen says he was keen to “adapt” and “add variety”. He certainly poses a bestial conundrum for rival clubs, as this award indicates. In truth, Esterzhuizen could have won last season had it not been for two separate red cards that sidelined him for a total of 10 weeks.
The first, for an elbow on Gloucester fly-half Lloyd Evans, is described as “stupid and my fault”. The second, following an innocuous scrum against the London Irish, was harder to accept. However, the suspension lasted until the play-offs. In the event, the Harlequins hijacked the top four and beat the Bristol Bears to reach the final. Esterhuizen returned and delivered a raging display of tries to sink Exeter. He rates the experience as “the best day of my career so far”, which is a compliment. Harlequin’s life is beautiful.
‘Quins mix of youth and experience is perfect right now’
“We have a lot of young guys coming in at 22 and 23,” Esterhuizen says. “Cadan Murley is currently one of the best wingers in all of England. I’m one of the older guys and I don’t feel old which is a good thing because the whole team can prepare for the future with the help of older guys like DC [Danny Care] and Joe [Marler].
“It’s a special group and the boys love each other, that’s why we all play for each other. The mix of youth and experience is perfect right now.
Under contract until 2025, after agreeing an extension last year, Esterhuizen has more to do than his goal of returning to the South African side. Simply put, he is on his way to being regarded as one of the best away signings in Premiership history. With a likely semi-final against Saracens looming, Esterhuizen will spearhead Harlequins’ title defense.
“One of the hardest things to do is to go back,” he concludes. “You can’t just do the same thing and expect the same result. You have to evolve, grow and become even better. We are the only team in the semi-finals last year to have reached the play-offs so far, which says a lot for the team.
“Now that we are on the business side, we have to do it right. If we do, it would mean the world and be amazing. Hopefully we can peak at the right time and get another one.
Esterhuizen leads by example when it comes to growth and improvement. The curiosity is whether he can find even more ways to torment his opponents.
Andre Esterhuizen was speaking after winning the Eterlast Players of the Year at the Eterlast RPA Awards 2022