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Tried and tested

Decisions, decisions.

Tim Visser scores for the Barbarians, against England   Photograph: Getty
Tim Visser scores for the Barbarians, against England Photograph: Getty

I'm over the 22, the full-back is sprawled on the turf 10 yards back and it's a clear run to the line. What now? I could finish with a swallow dive, but maybe it's too dry for that. And what about the celebration? High-fives all round because this one's a match-winner, or just a handshake because it could still go either way? I'll start with a smile. I always smile.

Tim Visser was made to score tries. He goes beyond prolific. In six RaboDirect PRO12 games this season he has crossed the line nine times, including a hat-trick on the opening weekend. He has had three full seasons at Edinburgh and he has been the league's top scorer in every one of them. He's done a lot of smiling in his time.

So just as well that he is eligible to play for Scotland at last. The momentous day arrived on June 12, exactly three years after he had moved to Edinburgh from Newcastle and began his residence qualification period. On June 16 he took the field for Scotland against Fiji to win his first cap; he walked off it with two tries to his name.

It was a most unScotsmanlike way to behave. Over the course of their nine previous matches, Scotland had scored just four tries. On the six occasions they drew a blank, all the talk had been of how Visser would turn things around. Just as well he likes a bit of pressure too.

But then, you could argue that he made a rod for his own back with that brace against Fiji as well. He might have silenced the doomsayers who aired their doubts about his ability to deliver on the big stage, but he created a few expectations as well. Have those two touchdowns raised the bar even further?

"Maybe, yes," he says when the point is put to him. "But I was just continuing from my form at Edinburgh. I had been doing it for a few years before that, so I think it was good to live up to the hype. It was building and I was trying to ignore it a little bit but it was good to score those first two tries.

"It's also reassuring. Having played at Edinburgh for a few years, and scored a lot of tries, you hear people asking if you can do that at international level. Hopefully I have shown that I can now and it's time to see if I can do it against New Zealand as well, which will be a massive step up."

Just a bit. Edinburgh have been misfiring all over the pitch this season, a pattern that makes Visser's scoring feats all the more remarkable but which hardly amounts to the best preparation for going mano a mano with the best team in the world. So is he trying to stay sanguine about it all? Feigning nonchalance? Talking the whole thing down?

None of the above. "It will probably be the match of my life," he says. Well, we did say he likes the pressure.

Not since Kenny Logan has Scotland had a player who was so willing to put his proverbials on the chopping block. But then, the Dutch-born Visser missed out on that immersion in the national inferiority complex that is the burden and the birthright of every home-bred Scot. He might a Scot in terms of the International Rugby Board's regulations, but, frankly, there's something not very Scottish at all about the way he looks at the world.

So no hang-ups about the 100-plus years of history in which Scotland have failed to register one victory over the All Blacks? No monkey on that broad back?

He shrugs. "We need to put stuff like that to bed," he says. "You can't think of those things when you're going into a big game. We need to prepare for how they have been playing recently and adapt our game plan to that.

"The game is a game. I don't like to think of things in the past. You can beat a team five or six times and then suddenly lose against them, and it can happen the other way around. Every game is a game in itself.

"Sure, we don't have a good track record against the All Blacks, but that's mostly because of the quality team they are. Not a lot of teams have a good track record against them."

For the avoidance of doubt, Visser does not come over as an arrogant individual. But the absence of cringing self-deprecation still sets him apart. Just as he's happy to keep a tally of the number of tries he has scored, and just as he spares us the mumbo-jumbo about just being happy to contribute something to the team, there is a refreshing air of self-belief about the 25-year-old winger.

It's a Dutch thing apparently. "In Holland we like to believe in ourselves," he suggests. "We believe that we can do stuff. I think Scottish people sometimes like being the underdogs."

The irony of all this is that Visser's self-esteem took a heck of a kicking in the season before he moved north. At Newcastle he had been branded as a player who was pretty useful going forward, but was about as useful as an abandoned toffee wrapper when the other lot had the ball. To his credit, he acknowledged that there was work to be done on his game; Newcastle, the perennial relegation battlers, had other things to worry about.

"Newcastle said to me that they were not in a position to develop me as a player. They desperately needed finished articles. Did they get that when I left? I don't know, maybe they are still looking. But I can't blame them for that.

"It was disappointing to leave the club because they gave me the opportunity to come to the UK in the first place. They are part of the reason I am here. But it was pretty mutual: I needed developing and they needed someone who was better."

Visser pays tribute to Andy Robinson, who signed him for Edinburgh in 2009, and Rob Moffat, who took over as head coach when Robinson moved on to the Scotland job.

"I wasn't in a position to be thinking of international rugby then," he says. "I just wanted to establish myself as a player and get a first team spot. I was just looking forward to joining a good club like Edinburgh. They had just finished second in the league and were very competitive."

His first season at Edinburgh was far from perfect, but he scored tries, including an astonishing five-minute hat-trick against the Ospreys. He was then meant to suffer second-season syndrome but it didn't happen – he kept scoring tries. In his third season, the critics backed off, and he scored more tries. It's what he does.

But you can sense a certain prickliness on the matter still. "I work hard for it," he says firmly. "I don't believe in luck. I get myself around the pitch and I get myself in good positions and those are my fundamentals.

"If I keep my work rate up I seem to be able to get myself in the right position at the right time. If I do that tries will keep coming. I'm sure there will be a time when I have a bit of a drought, but I'll go with that when I get there. So long as they keep coming I know that what I'm doing is working."

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