I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. The decision to go down Stoney Lane, thereby avoiding the congestion on the Moseley Road had saved me ten minutes and meant I would not be late for my 11am appointment with Ryan De La Harpe.
I needn’t have worried, I could have crawled on my hands and knees through Balsall Heath with my car on my back and still been at Billesley Common before the diminutive Namibian came off the training park.
There he was, all 5ft 8ins of him, braving the driving rain and lashing wind, practising his box kicking. Alone.
“His attitude is cock on,” the team manager chuckled. “He’d stay out there with a miner’s hat on if we let him.”
This time the headgear was not necessary, though only, I suspect, because he was called in. Typically De La Harpe obeyed and within a couple of minutes he was sat in the players’ room, rain and sweat beading his forehead, his wet top clinging to whatever it touched, maintaining he did not want to dry himself first.
Why bother, he’d probably be back out after our interview with a bag of balls and the aforementioned helmet.
This, I was to learn, was nothing new for Ryan De La Harpe, the 28-year-old scrum-half who loves to train and work hard.
After all, until April, training on his own was all he’d been able to do for all of last season following a change in his immigration status.
De La Harpe, one of three rugby playing brothers from Walvis Bay, came to this country in 2008 and played with West Park in North One and Sale Jets in the A League. He was also part of the Lancashire side that won the County Championship at Twickenham in 2009.
But when he married his wife Simone last year he was unable to work until his application to remain in the UK was processed, which for a rugby player that meant no rugby. From September until May.
“If I think back I had never missed a season, I had been lucky enough never to have a serious injury. Then suddenly it just stopped,” De La Harpe recalls.
“I had to watch rugby on TV and sometimes I didn’t even want to. If I was sat in front of the TV at the weekend seeing people I know from South Africa playing in the Premiership or Super 14, it was a little like torture.”
His only option was to train. He accompanied his wife to the train station every morning and ran the three miles back home. He would then go to a local park and run around it. Again and again and again.
“I asked a council worker how far it was and he reckoned it was just over a mile. I started running that and it got easier until I could run it ten times.
“I was doing a lot of kicking on my own, even in winter. My wife sometimes came and recorded me so I could see what I looked like. Then I’d watch the guys on TV and say ‘I’m not doing this’ or ‘I am doing that’.
“There was also a wall with loads of marks on and I would use it to try and hit targets. Sometimes people would come up to me and kids would ask me ‘Are you a rugby player’?
“Some would like to train with me which was at least some fun along the way. I always tried to stay positive, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now. Now my confidence is growing and growing.”
Salvation came in the last few weeks of the 2009-10 campaign when Lancashire coaching staff contacted the former Pumas half back to see if he would help them retain the Bill Beaumont Cup.
He returned to training at Sale and played a couple of games for Fylde Warriors before making it all the way back to Twickenham.
He was off the beach and afloat once more but when Moseley came looking for someone to challenge Gareth Taylor, he became positively buoyant.
“It is awesome to be involved in rugby again,” he says. “If anyone is in a situation like that I would say ‘Don’t ever give up’. There were so many times when I was just thinking ‘It’s gone. I will never play again’. That’s how it felt. But perseverance and the support of a wonderful family got me through.”
He saw the light of day in pre-season with a try against Aberavon and appeared in his first competitive match off the bench against Bristol after Taylor damaged his ankle.
That gave De La Harpe his big chance, which came at Bedford but coincided with the team’s worst performance of the season.
“I was very excited, I was preparing the whole week not knowing if I was going to be starting or not. I have been sitting on the bench trying to stay focused and have a strong mentality.
“On a personal note I really enjoyed it, the pace was really good, the atmosphere was brilliant. It was a good experience even though we lost.”
And then came the chance of a lifetime, Saturday’s clash with Worcester that brought ten internationals including one from each ‘Home Nation’ and an All Black.
De La Harpe played with his customary enthusiasm and the speed with which he got the ball away from the breakdown was a big factor in a more fluid showing from the Moseley backline.
Taylor could be back this weekend at Nottingham but even if he does return to the bench De La Harpe has at least shown coach Ian Smith he has another option in the most pivotal of positions.
“I felt at ease the first time I came here,” he maintains. “If I can play regularly I can improve my game a lot. I am hungry for rugby. Now I have got this chance I want to take it with both hands.”
Whatever happens one thing is certain, De La Harpe certainly won’t come up short in terms of practice.