SRU chief executive Mark Dodson is closing in on a new Edinburgh head coach while in South Africa.
The Scotsman understands that Dodson has met a handful of southern hemisphere coaches while in the Republic as part of the Scotland tour party, and chief among his targets to plot a new era for Edinburgh is believed to be Alan Solomons.
The 62-year-old made his name coaching Western Province and the Stormers and was assistant coach to Nick Mallett during the Springboks’ record run of 17 victories, which included an unbeaten Tri Nations success and record wins of 68-19 against Scotland at Murrayfield, 51-10 over France in Paris and 96-13 against Wales in Pretoria.
Dodson declined to comment yesterday, but SRU director of communications and public affairs Dominic McKay said: “We have met a number of different coaches in recent weeks and months and continue to discuss the Edinburgh Rugby position with experienced coaches who we believe could help us to bring success to the club and to develop Scottish coaches, which we have said is our stated aim.
“We said that we would scour the world for coaches of the quality and desire to make a difference to Edinburgh Rugby, but these discussions are ongoing, not only in South Africa, so at this moment in time we cannot comment further.”
Solomons remains under contract to the Southern Kings in Super Rugby, and their season will run at least to 13 July so, if he was to agree a move to Scotland, the SRU may find themselves in a similar situation to that of new national coach Vern Cotter, where they are made to wait at least another month or two.
The SRU are known to be looking at a number of candidates similarly involved with clubs elsewhere, but Solomons fits the criteria of an experienced coach who knows the Celtic and European game and could help to develop a new generation of Scottish professional coaches. He took over at Ulster in 2001 and steered the Irish province to a three-year unbeaten home record in the Heineken Cup, twice missing out on the quarter-finals on points difference, but beating Leicester 33-0 on the way while, in the Celtic League, his side lost to Munster in the semi-finals in 2002 and 2003, beat Edinburgh at Murrayfield to win the first Celtic Cup and were pipped to the league by Llanelli Scarlets on the last day of the 2003-4 season.
Solomons took over from Wayne Smith at Northampton in 2004 but was sacked after eight games as the club slid to the foot of the table. He had coaching stints with the IRB around the world, and was in charge of the Barbarians and coached against the British and Irish Lions in 2009 after being asked by the South African Rugby Union to take charge of the new eastern province Super Rugby franchise, the Southern Kings.
He coached the team to qualification for the Super Rugby Championship and brought in Matt Sexton last year as head coach for their first year in Super Rugby, and continues as director of rugby.
Meanwhile Edinburgh have already started pre-season training under interim coach Stevie Scott and yesterday added Bath’s 25-year-old Scotland full-back Jack Cuthbert to their squad on a two-year deal, adding further to the back three competition with Nikki Walker also signed from Worcester.
Cuthbert said: “I’m really excited. It’s a fresh challenge for me. I’m coming into a completely different environment from Bath where I’ve spent the past seven or eight years.
“It’s a change of league with a very different style of rugby. The Premiership is very much a physical affair while there’s a great style of running rugby brandished in the RaboDirect PRO12, with the physicality right up there with the best leagues in Europe.
“Murrayfield is where I made my Scotland debut and I’d love to get the chance to play more Test rugby but I’m only focusing on Edinburgh just now.”