Nick Easter had no idea he would be celebrating his 40th Birthday with a braai in Durban as he launches a new chapter in his rugby career with the Sharks.
What makes the celebration even more surreal is the presence at the party of former England teammates Joe Worsley and Luke Narraway and ex-England skills coach Rory Teague who are in Durban with the Top 14 Bordeaux Begles team they coach.
Easter expected to be in London, helping Harlequins prepare for the new Gallagher Premiership campaign but left the club on July 24 as the third coaching change following the arrival of Paul Gustard as the new head of rugby.
Easter played 54 times for England and wore the Quins jersey for 12 seasons and it was a natural move for him to become the defence coach. That role lasted for just two years with Quins disappointing Premiership campaign ending with John Kingston departing as director of rugby followed by forwards coach Graham Rowntree and Easter last month.
Continue reading below…
While Kingston and Rowntree have yet to reappear on the rugby scene, Easter has been given the opportunity to help the Sharks in their Currie Cup campaign having been invited to Durban by head coach Robert du Preez. Easter will be the team’s breakdown coach and will also assist Braam van Straaten with defence and skills coach Jaco Pienaar with the lineouts during the tournament.
Easter played for the Villagers club in Cape Town during his early career, his Mum is South African and his great-grandfather, Pieter Le Roux, played for the Springboks. His close connection with the country means he is relishing being part of the Currie Cup competition.
However, first, he has to negotiate the Birthday party the Sharks have arranged and said: “We had a community coaching clinic along with Bordeaux who are here on a pre-season trip and I met up with Worzel (Joe Worsley), Luke Narraway and Rory Teague and will have a few tonight! Durban is the place to be at the moment because we play Bordeaux on Friday night and then the Springboks take on Argentina the next day. There is a lot of rugby in town!
Thanks for all the birthday messages. One more year till…… not fooling anyone! Just beginning! ???.
— Nick Easter (@nick_easter) August 15, 2018
“I greeted Worzel with “Melon” and he swung around and said “no one calls me that in this French team.” I left Quins last month and had been planning do some coach development and there were some offers to coach at lower levels in England which was great.
“I wanted to make a decision that would develop me as a coach and give me the best opportunity to learn and that was to come down to Durban. I explained my situation to Rob du Preez and said I didn’t want to tread on anyone’s toes. I put it to him and he thought was a great idea and here I am.
“It was key to get into coaching as soon as possible and it is great to be back involved with a team that wants to achieve success. Northern Hemisphere coaches, for various reasons, don’t come down South very often and to be able to come here is a great opportunity.”
Easter acknowledges that the arrival of Gustard, who was England’s defence coach, had obvious ramifications for his role while at Quins and he spoke to the new head of rugby about the situation. “Guzzy always has done defence,” explained Easter. “I said that if he wanted me to stay then I would be happy to stay. It is a big boy’s game and I understand what it’s about. Coupled with the frustrations I had last season when I didn’t feel I could really influence what was going on as much as I would have liked, made me think the best decision would be to experience a new environment. As a result I am in Durban on my 40th.
“I love doing defence and I am helping out here at the Sharks but if you want to become the best coach possible then you have to understand all elements of the game.
“To become the best defence coach you have to know about attack and the same if you want to be the best attack coach you need to know about the defence. I loved all elements of the game and like to think I wasn’t a one-trick pony. Rugby fascinates me because it is a decision-making game.”
One decision that Easter has already made is that his first child – wife Kerry is five months pregnant – will be born in London and while she will be travelling out shortly to spend time in Durban, the family will be in England for the birth. “With the little one coming along we will have to look at things going forward:” added Easter.
Sign up to our mailing list here and we’ll keep you up to the minute with weekly updates from the world of rugby.