After more than 300 games in the Edinburgh pack, two of the club’s greatest servants will bow out this weekend when Munster visit Hive Stadium.  

A dozen years have passed since WP, or Willem Petrus to give him his Sunday name, Nel swapped his native South Africa for the Scottish capital.  

When he arrived from the Free State, Nel was a rookie by any means, having played three seasons of Super Rugby and helped the Barbarians beat the All Blacks in 2009.  

It was, he said “an opportunity to gain new experience and develop my game”.  

But what he has achieved during 12 years in Scotland means he should be considered one of the club’s all-time greats, and one of the best overseas signings made by Scottish Rugby.  

Scotland Rugby News: WP Nel will bid farewell to the Edinburgh supporters this weekendWP Nel will bid farewell to the Edinburgh supporters this weekend (Image: SNS)

He stands alongside only Allan Jacobsen, Mike Blair and Chris Paterson as an Edinburgh ‘double centurion’ having played his 200th match shortly before it was confirmed that he would retire at the season’s end.  

READ MORE: Coaches pay tribute to 'one of the best' as Nel confirms retirement

When I spoke to former Edinburgh and Scotland captain Stuart McInally recently, he was full of praise for the impact Nel has made.  

McInally described his former colleague as “quiet and unassuming" off the pitch but a “fierce competitor” on the field.  

Of the so-called ‘project players’ – those earmarked for international selection on residency grounds – Nel has been by far the most successful. Not only has he represented Scotland on more than 60 occasions since qualifying in 2015, but he’s done so with unquestionable pride. 

The 38-year-old who retired from international duty during this year’s Six Nations, played for Scotland at the 2015, 2019 and 2023 Rugby World Cups.

A video released by Scottish Rugby upon the announcement of his retirement showed Nel visibly emotional as he reflected on his 61-cap career. 

Scotland Rugby News: The Rugby World Cup defeat to Ireland was Nel's final international appearanceThe Rugby World Cup defeat to Ireland was Nel's final international appearance (Image: PA)

“To come to Edinburgh and after three years qualify for Scotland and get the opportunity, is a proud moment and a moment I’ll always cherish,” Nel said.  

"The memories are unbelievable.” 

Nel has seen plenty change during his 12 years at Edinburgh, including five full-time head coaches, the club’s rebranding and the move from Murrayfield to Hive Stadium. One thing hasn’t changed, though. The club is still waiting to win its first major silverware.  

It might be a long shot anyway this season, but if Nel is to get his hands on a trophy before he hangs up his boots, his Edinburgh farewell must be a victorious one against the defending champions.  

While Nel has been the rock to Edinburgh’s scrum, Fijian Viliame Mata has been its anchor since he arrived in 2016.  

During his time in Edinburgh, the Fijian has established himself as one of the world’s top number eights renowned for his work ethic, outstanding ball carrying and the odd outrageous offload.  

Like Nel, he had promising pedigree when he arrived in Scotland, having helped Fiji to a gold medal at the Rio Olympics, but he was very green in the 15-a-side game in his early days.  

In 2018/19 under Richard Cockerill, he reached new heights as Edinburgh reached the Champions Cup knockout stage, winning a pool that also included Montpellier and Toulon. 

As well as being a relentless carrier, Mata showed his ball-playing skills with an outrageous offload that put James Johnstone away for a stunning score in the win over Toulon at the Stade Felix Mayol. 

Edinburgh pulled off a major coup when they lured Todd Blackadder, the former All Blacks captain, to Scotland in the early 2000s. He is credited with increasing standards at the club, on and off the field.  

Blackadder is considered one of the club’s best-ever signings, but Mata deserves to be in that conversation, which speaks volumes about the Fijian’s impact over the past eight years.  

Scotland Rugby News: WP Nel ran out with his four children at Hive Stadium recently to mark passing 200 games for EdinburghWP Nel ran out with his four children at Hive Stadium recently to mark passing 200 games for Edinburgh (Image: SNS)

Glasgow Warriors have had their fair share of outstanding imports, from Josh Strauss and  Niko Matawalu to DTH van der Merwe and Leone Nakarawa. 

Matawalu and Nakarawa were great entertainers over their stints at Scotstoun,  van der Merwe is the club's record try scorer. 

Such was the impact of Tommy Hayes, the Cook Islands fly-half of the late 1990s and early 2000s, he remains second on the list of Glasgow's record points scorers, behind only Dan Parks and still in front of Duncan Weir. 

But not only for his longevity - 12 years in any position is an impressive innings, but even more so in the front-row and particularly for a man who considered quitting several years ago due to neck injuries - but also the impact he's had on the teams he's represented,  Nel has to be right up there in terms of the best signings Scottish Rugby have made for either of the pro teams.