EDINBURGH have added to their stand-off strength with one of the top Currie Cup performers from South Africa, Carl Bezuidenhout.
Head coach Alan Solomons spoke last week of his frustrations at losing young Scot Harry Leonard to injury on top of Piers Francis, whose return date remains unclear, and another promising young Scot Gregor Hunter, who suffered a serious knee injury at the start of the season and is not expected to return until the final games and even that remains up in the air.
Solomons has been questioned over a signing policy that has featured a handful of players being brought to the Scottish capital from his former club Eastern Province, but the former Springbok backs coach has made no secret of his plan being twofold: to use whatever resources he can find around the world to turn Edinburgh into a squad capable of competing for the RaboDirect PRO12 title and Heineken Cup honours, and to develop young Scottish talent.
After bringing in English lad Tony Fenner on trial last week, he is delighted to have persuaded Bezuidenhout to have joined, fresh from winning the 2013 Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, on an extended trial until the end of the season. The 27-year-old, who was the Currie Cup’s top points scorer, began training with the squad at Murrayfield yesterday.
Solomons said: “Carl [Bezuidenhout] has performed really well for the Pumas and played a pivotal role in their Currie Cup success this year.
“His game management is very good, he’s got a good boot out of hand and for goal, and is very athletic. He now has an excellent opportunity to show us what he is capable of, while also solving an immediate issue in that we are desperately short of fly-halves. We will have to see how he tracks for us but I think he has the ability.”
Edinburgh currently have 16 senior Scotland internationalists and 43 players eligible to represent the country, and Willem Nel and Francis looking to become eligible through residency. But, while he sticks to the mantra of just seeking improvement, Solomons is eager to continue the club’s drive towards PRO12 play-off contention sooner rather than later, and that means turning to proven performers.
A tall, commanding player, Bezuidenhout was a member of the Natal Sharks Currie Cup squad that lifted the 2008 Premier Division title and reached the semi-finals on three other occasions. He then spent a
season with Eastern Province before moving to Nelspruit in 2010 where he was a key ingredient in the Pumas’ improved fortunes, going one better than their 2012 runners-up place with this year’s unbeaten championship campaign.
He is not Scottish-qualified and, while he could become so, at the age of 30, he is not looking that far ahead.
He said: “I’m just extremely excited to be here. Playing in Europe is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. I just needed the break and this is it.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for a new experience; different rugby, different people, different cultures, it’s all very appealing to me and I’m really glad I’m here. I’ve always wanted to travel with the sport. I got married in March so it’s something that we both really wanted to try as well.”
Having trained yesterday, he could go straight into Edinburgh’s squad for the 1872 Cup rematch with Glasgow at Scotstoun tomorrow, but with stand-in stand-off Greig Tonks one of the team’s best performers on Boxing Day and Fenner yet to make his first appearance for the side, the match might just be too soon.
Bezuidenhout added: “It’s just going to take hard work and I need to get stuck in from day one. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance out on the paddock soon to play my natural game and kick on from there. But I’m delighted about it.”
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE