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Viljoen grateful for Tigers opportunity

In his first interview since arriving in Leicester from South Africa, EW Viljoen opens up on what he already loves about the club, his new team-mates and linking up with old ones Jaco Taute and Hanro Liebenberg, as well as how he believes Tigers can become feared again and much more.

They say preparation is the key to success. So, it will warm the hearts of Tigers fans to know that new recruit EW Viljoen has spent the time since he agreed a move from South Africa to the East Midlands wisely - learning about Premiership and European rugby, as well as his new home and Tigers Family members.

Likewise, the Welford Road faithful will be happy to know he has been impressed with what he has seen of them.

“I’ve been looking forward to it since I knew I was coming to Leicester,” said Viljoen.

“I’ve been following Tigers and doing my research on English and European rugby to learn more about the club and the game over here.”

Asked what he knew of the club even before typing T-i-g-e-r-s into Google, Viljoen was quick to acknowledge the famous 16th man.

“What I did already know was that this is definitely the most-supported club in Europe and the fans are great and turn up in numbers to each game, home and away,” he said.

The Bloemfontein-born outside-back has spent the past six seasons in the Stormers system after first being invited to train with the Cape Town club’s senior squad at just 18 years old, alongside former Tigers and Springbok internationals Jean de Villiers and Pat Cilliers.

I’ve been following Tigers and doing my research on English and European rugby to learn more about the club and the game over here

EW Viljoen

The 2014 Stormers squad also included Schalk Burger, Eben Etzebeth and Duane Vermeulen as well as fellow Tigers recruit Jaco Taute - who was a senior member of the Super Rugby and Western Province Currie Cup squad at the time.

Speaking about linking up again with Taute, Viljoen said: “It’s great joining up with him again and I’m looking forward to playing together again.”

“I won’t say he’s old,” Viljoen said through a smile, before adding: “but he’s been around the block and had his Springboks experience and passed on a lot of that knowledge at Province - which I am sure he will do here as well.”

The pair make up two-thirds of a new trio of South Africans to touch down at Tigers ahead of the 2019/20 campaign and Viljoen is equally excited about Hanro Liebenberg joining Leicester, especially as he will be on the same side for a change.

“I know Hanro well, as an opposition player mostly,” he said. “I’ve played against him a lot, but also together in the South Africa Under-20s, but we came across each other a lot on the field as opponents.

"It’ll be nice to be on the same side for a change, he’s a very physical player."

And Viljoen is hopeful the addition of the trio, as well as fellow southern-hemisphere signings Tomas Lavanini, Nephi Leatigaga and Jordan Taufua, will add another element to the Tigers squad in a bid to restore the reputation of the playing side.

“Tigers were always known to be a physical team and teams didn’t want to come here [Welford Road] because they get back on the bus hurting and bruised. We want to bring that back this year,” Viljoen said.

“Obviously last year wasn’t the best but we’re starting from scratch and rebuilding the philosophy and team cultures, which everyone is excited about.

“It’s a long pre-season we’re in now, but that gives us time to bond and get to know each other better as a team.”

Getting to know his team-mates has not been an issue in the opening weeks, with Viljoen excited by the “energy” he has witnessed so far, and by the way he is comfortably sat, with a smile from ear to ear, while leaning on the touchline fence during his first interview, it appears settling in has been a breeze.

“It’s a very nice, great bunch of guys and the energy is high here,” he said.

“I am loving it so far and everyone has been great. It’s great to be here.

“Everyone enjoys each other's company, it’s great to see and feel, and I am looking forward to being a part of it.”