John Dobson is wary of an Edinburgh team he believes are much better than suggested by their seventh-place finish in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers will host Edinburgh in a URC quarter-final clash in Cape Town on Saturday night, with the Capetonians looking to make home- ground advantage count against a team that will be stacked with Scottish internationals.
The two teams last faced off in the third round of the tournament in Edinburgh, when the Stormers managed to hold the hosts to a 20-20 draw, despite missing a host of Springboks.
Of that team that faced Edinburgh, it’s likely that only Salmaan Moerat and Evan Roos will reappear in the starting pack, while Warrick Gelant will probably be the only survivor of the backline that played at the DAM Health Stadium.
Edinburgh, by contrast, will probably field a team that looks very similar to the one that first faced the Stormers last October, with the big change coming at flyhalf, where Blair Kinghorn is likely to be back ahead of South African Jaco van der Walt.
“The takeout from that game is that they are playing a lot more ball-in-hand rugby than they have in the previous years,” Stormers boss Dobson told the media on Wednesday. “They have got some real X factor and a pack that backs themselves. They’ve evolved this season from their defensive, set-piece game.
“There is a bit more of an attacking threat. They weren’t sure whether Blair Kinghorn was their flyhalf, but had a similar journey to us with Manie. They have a flyhalf that likes to attack and take the ball to the line. When we faced them the last time, it was Jaco van der Walt, who is a very different type of flyhalf, but still very effective. They are a much more attacking team than they have been over the last few seasons.”
Edinburgh did only finish seventh on the overall URC table, but that can be misleading about the relative strength of the Scottish outfit.
Mike Blair’s team managed to beat the Sharks in Durban and fell to narrow loss against the Lions in Johannesburg and recently Ulster at home.
“It’s probably a combination of Glasgow and Edinburgh, but Edinburgh are contributing around 12 or 13 players to Scotland,” said Dobson. “Those are the numbers that Benetton put on the field for Italy and Leinster put on the field for Ireland. We are under no illusions. Hamish Watson and those Edinburgh loose forwards were incredibly competitive on the Lions tour last year.
“It is second vs seventh, but there’s only a seven-point difference. In the URC, they did this nice little graphic on how the log had moved and changed through the season, similar to other competitions. There was a period where you saw the orange of Edinburgh on top.
“I may be wrong, but I think they gave around 12 Scottish internationals. So when they played those games during the Six Nations and came down here, they dropped down the table. For a while, they were top of the URC table, so they are a strong side. There was a knock-on from a pick-and-go towards the end of the game against Ulster, which if they had scored, they would have won it. So, they are a very good team.”
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