THE QUICKEST way to stop talk of foreigners taking over the game in Scotland is for one to leave an indelible mark, and Cornell du Preez is one newcomer doing that in the capital.
The issue of how many new faces were appearing at Edinburgh, particularly from South Africa, was one that cropped up regularly among supporters as the team struggled to unearth a win in the early stages of the season, but even in defeat on Boxing Day the flanker Du Preez continued his winning campaign to win over the locals.
Roddy Grant was voted the Man of the Match, which provided some consolation on the occasion of his 100th Edinburgh appearance, while no-one could argue that his back row accomplice Du Preez ran him very close. He may have claimed it had his reach to the line for a try shortly after half-time made it, but Ryan Wilson managed to knock the ball from his grasp.
Du Preez admitted: “I thought I was there at first and was pretty close, but in the end I just could not get there.
“It was frustrating. Our first half was very good, but we are very disappointed about our second half, which was poor. We can build on our first half, though.”
The South African, in whom Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons felt so confident that he was happy to heap pressure on the 22-year-old before he had even started a game in Scotland, will be a key figure in the return match at Scotstoun and the team’s bid to push back up the table. He has scored three tries in six starts and, since picking up a yellow card in his first substitute appearance in Cardiff, proved a real handful in virtually every game he has played.
He has already filled all three positions in the back row but wherever he has been Du Preez has shown the same physicality, with tackles that stop players dead and in determined runs that have left defenders spinning, and ball skills to point to him being a vital cog at the heart of the Edinburgh gameplan. The boy from Port Elizabeth also has a confidence that his team will require now as they plot a revenge mission on New Year’s Day.
“Can we win over there? Definitely,” he said, looking at the questioner as if he had two heads. “If you look at the way we played in the first half, well, if we can keep that going for 80 minutes we will get the four or more points we need next week.
“In derby games, you don’t need extra motivation. It was awesome on Thursday. Derby games are physical and the crowd came out and supported both teams. I personally have not played in any before, but I have watched ones like the Blue Bulls against Western Province and that was one of those kind of games.
“We said before the game that we have to have fire in the belly and ice in the head. Sometimes you lose it in games like this. It is usually the team that has the best composure that will come through and that will be our aim next week.”
Considering Glasgow had two yellow cards to Edinburgh’s one, that may not have been the case this week, but had the flanker scored when he came close it is likely Glasgow would have suffered a third defeat on the trot.
As it was, their ability to then turn their one clear chance into a try in the second half, and victory, was enough to send the team back along the M8 believing that they are on the way back.
The Warriors centre Alex Dunbar is expecting an even tougher battle in the return leg.
“It will be tougher than this week,” he said. “We went in with a game plan, stuck to it at times but knew that the way they wanted to play they would try to be dominant and their big ball carriers would try to make yards over the gain line, and while we won we know they did that too often so we have things to work on for next week.
“We have struggled a little, and not quite been at the races the last couple of weeks as a few mistakes crept in. It has been positive to get the win now, but we know how hard it is going to be next week.
“We have to go back out and do the basics well. We sorted the defence out this week, though we still made a few mistakes, but the focus now will be on pressure – putting them under pressure and going out and playing our game.”