DANIE POOLMAN MISSED out on seeing fellow South African Richardt Strauss making his debut for Ireland against the Springboks.
The Pretoria native was stuck in Italy thanks to a seven-hour flight delay.
His pre-booked ticket for the Aviva Stadium was left unused but Poolman keenly noted the reaction that the Leinster hooker got on his international debut.
Having just made his breakthrough with the Stormers in Super Rugby, the 23-year-old had a conversation with former Connacht coach Steph Nel and a new route into international rugby was decided. Poolman told TheScore.ie:
I have my sights set at playing for Ireland in three years when I qualify.
“I was looking into getting a move overseas to gain more experience. I talked to a few people about it and I heard [Ireland] are looking for a centre.
“I am financially secure now for three years while I chase my goal but it was a difficult decision to leave. I sat down and had a long chat with my parents before I left.”
De Villiers the role model
Poolman had to split his playing time with the Stormers on the wing and at centre as there were some top class players in direct competition for spots.
“We had Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh,” he said, “and Bryan Habana often played outside centre.”
Poolman reveals that de Villiers, a player he always looked up to, and his season with Munster in 2009/10 were motivating factors in his move to Galway.
He said, “I talked to Jean and he said I’d love it here, and the people, but not to expect too much sunshine. He feels that every player should make the most [effort] to experience different cultures and styles of play.” Poolman added:
Any player’s dream is to play international rugby. My first dream was to play for South Africa but I want to be a centre and Ireland is a great team.”
It is not quite the heart-on-sleeve commitment that Strauss made to TheScore.ie two weeks ago but Poolman is relatively fresh off the plane and adjusting to life in the west of Ireland.
Provincial matters first
With Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy in the twilight of their international careers, Poolman’s best chance of elevation to the national team will be to keep his head down, play hard and contribute to a winning Connacht team.
He made his debut against Ospreys in October and scored on his first start, against Treviso, a week later.
Edinburgh are next on the horizon and Eric Elwood will demand a home win before a double-header in the Heineken Cup against Biarritz.
Poolman and Connacht take on Edinburgh at the Sportsground, Galway, from 5pm on Saturday.
The game will not be broadcast live so the province is encouraging supporters to get along and support the team.
Further information on tickets can be found here.