Roland Reid does not consider himself to be stuck in a difficult position. "Not at all," he insisted on Thursday lunchtime, having discovered he would be switching from No 11 to No 6 for the Iestyn Harris Roadshow, otherwise known as the Heineken Cup match between Glasgow and Cardiff, at Hughenden this afternoon. "Last weekend I was a left-winger. This weekend I'm a blind-side flanker.
"It's a switch on, switch off thing. Right now I'm thinking of the things I have to do as a back-row player. When I'm selected on the wing, I think of what I have to do as a winger. Yes, both positions are different, but at the end of the day you're on the pitch playing rugby. I'm just happy to be out there, doing my best."
Ian McGeechan, no doubt, is happy too. Reid was in his Scotland squad as a winger for the Six Nations match against Ireland in September, though not in his final 22. McGeechan has picked him as a back-rower in his squad for Scotland's three autumn Tests, and with Budge Pountney, Simon Taylor and Martin Leslie all injured, the Scotland coach has reason to be grateful for his man of many talents.
Reid, it seems, will make his international debut against Tonga at Murrayfield on Saturday as a back-row substitute, if not a starter. "To get my first cap for Scotland would be a dream come true," he mused, wedging his giant frame into one of the lounge chairs at Dalziel Park, Glasgow's weekday training base.
There was a time when Reid dreamed of playing for the Springboks. A native of Middelburg, he played as a flanker for the South African schools, Under-19 and Under- 21 teams. He also played in the Currie Cup as a 19-year-old but saw his future development path blocked when Laurie Mains signed Rassie Erasmus and Andre Venter for the Golden Lions. Hence, in October 1999, he decided to try his luck in the land of his Greenock-born father, Derek.
Since then, the 23-year-old has become a key member of Richie Dixon's Glasgow team and played three non-cap games for Scotland on tour in New Zealand. He has also, since the start of the current season, become a born-again winger. Reid played out wide in his early teens and his size and pace prompted Dixon and McGeechan to groom him as a Scottish variation on the Jonah Lomu theme – "Jonah McLomu", as he has been dubbed after some mightily impressive performances.
"It does make you laugh," Reid said. "Jonah Lomu is the best left-winger in the world. Even in terms of experience I'm nowhere near him. People say there is a remarkable similarity in terms of size and pace. Fine, there is that. But they can compare me to whoever they want – it's what I do on the pitch that counts."
It is just as well that Reid happens to be such a pragmatic soul, because, as he concedes, the similarities with Lomu are striking. The New Zealander played in the back row before he was converted into a back-line battering ram – by Laurie Mains. He stands 6ft 5in tall and weighs 19st. Reid is 6ft 4in and 17st 6lb. Lomu has a best 100m time of 10.7sec. Reid has run 10.8sec – scorching pace for a wing three-quarter, never mind a wing-forward. J J Williams clocked 10.6sec when he ran in the 100m heats for Wales at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, and that was wind-assisted.
Reid also happens to be a 7.43m long jumper, a distance he achieved as runner-up in the South African junior championships at the age of 17 and which no Scottish athlete has bettered this year without wind assistance. The qualifying mark for the Commonwealth Games in Manchester next summer is 7.60m, but Reid has no interest in following in the cross-sporting footsteps of the flying J J, the hurdling Nigel Walker and others.
He has little interest in football, either – which explains why he was unaware of the extent of Great Uncle Don's fame until he moved to Scotland. Don Kitchenbrand was an Ibrox hero in the 1950s. He scored 24 goals in 25 league games for Rangers in the 1955-56 season, including five in one game against Queen of the South.
He also played in the Sunderland team that was captained by Don Revie. The big South African centre-forward was known as "the Rhino". "I always thought that was just because of his build," Reid said. "But I've seen some footage of him playing and he had this natural ability of barging people out of the way." Just like Jonah Lomu, he might have added – and the potential Jonah McLomu.Reuse content