The Namibian fisherman who caught the eye of Eddie Jones

I’M hoping someone can put this on Wikipedia!’ says Patrick Schickerling, with a laugh, as he sprawls his giant frame across two plastic seats.

The new England prop, who grew up 11 000 km away on the Namibian coast, wants to clear up a technicality.

‘All I see in the comments section is, “How does he qualify for England? What the hell! He’s Namibian”. So let me explain.

‘When I arrived in England in 2018, the rule was that you are eligible to play after three years of residency. I moved to Exeter and went straight on loan to Cornish Pirates. Two months later, the rule went up to five years. I was living in the UK for three years straight and I couldn’t go home because of Covid. That’s why!’

Hailing from the seaside town of Walvis Bay, Schickerling has added his Afrikaner muscle to the ranks of English scrummaging.

The tighthead swapped Africa for Exeter after catching the eye of scouts at a junior competition in Romania.

‘Walvis Bay means whale bay in Afrikaans,’ he explains. ‘That’s where I grew up. They call it the skeleton coast because of all the shipwrecks. We’re not very up to date with lighthouse technology! There’s a lot of storms and big waves. I’ve seen boats get chopped up and scrapped.

‘It was a nice place to grow up. It’s quiet and peaceful… you could almost say it’s like Devon!

‘My dad loves fishing so I would do that every weekend from the age of seven or eight. Straight out of school, pack your bags and off you go. We caught a few bronze whaler sharks. I caught one that was 100kg when I was 13. Someone has to grab the tail and hope that it doesn’t turn around and bite you. It’s pretty scary!

‘I lived there my whole life. Before I moved here I played all of my rugby back home in Namibia. From seven years old I played at school, and then I played for the Namibia Under 18s and Under 20s.

‘We played in the Under 20 World Trophy in Romania, I picked up an agent and they got me a contract to come straight over from school. Most Namibians think you have to get picked up in South Africa and move there, but it’s not over until the fat lady sings!’

Now 23, Schickerling has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ranks. He has only played 13 Premiership games for Exeter but his powerful ball-carrying has already caught the eye of the national team, earning him a first call-up in June.

His father, Adrian, represented South Africa at junior level but Schickerling is set on English honours. ‘My dad used to play rugby in Cape Town, for South Africa Juniors and Western Province,’ he says. ‘Those were the days when you played purely for passion.

‘I looked up to him, he’s why I started playing. When people came over they would always talk about how good my dad was so I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

‘When I was 15, I fell in love with the gym. I was always in there when I should have been doing my homework. I pride myself on my strength and my carrying. My dad was a back-rower so he had some speed. Maybe I got some speed from him.’

Weighing in at 19st 10lb and ‘6ft tall with shoes on’, Schickerling has been game-changing for Exeter this season. Scrummaging has been his biggest focus for improvement, and he has had regular video reviews with England coach Matt Proudfoot throughout the campaign.

‘The season before last, I spent half the year grafting with the Pirates,’ he says. ‘I didn’t get much game time. I was just trying to pick up on my scrummaging.

‘Last season I started every game and things click. You go and go and go. I hadn’t heard much from Exeter so that pushed me to go harder. I was called back by Exeter because of injuries and you just go and do it.

‘The scrum is always a work in progress. Everything goes on in the scrums. It’s wild out there. A lot of teams capitalize on scrummaging because you get a penalty, kick to the corner and get a try. For me, getting a scrum pen is more satisfying than scoring a try.’When it goes well, it’s really nice. It’s like a bull fight. Who’s the bigger man? Especially when you know the guy across from you.

‘I want to be good at scrums and I want to be a lethal player in the loose,’ adds Schickerling.

‘I don’t want to be a typical scrummaging tighthead. I look up to Will Stuart because he does everything really well. I’m 23 so I’ve got a long way to go in scrummaging terms.

‘It’s happened quickly. There hasn’t been much time to think. You just have to make the most of your opportunities and be up to speed when you get a chance.’ –

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