WHEN the curtain finally comes down on a long, hard and ultimately disappointing season for Edinburgh Rugby tomorrow night, it will surely come as a blessed relief to almost everyone associated with the club.
Coach Alan Solomons has made it abundantly clear that these last run of games have been an exercise in damage limitation. His focus has already moved on to next season, and he has apparently completed the planning and recruitment process (with announcements impending) which he believes will ensure that his troops hit the ground running.
The players are either exhausted after having to adapt during the heat of battle to a whole new way of doing things, or completely demotivated after being brutally apprised of the fact that they are no longer part of the club’s future.
As for supporters… well, that depends on whether they are of the glass half-full or glass half-empty variety.
The optimists will tell you that the club is finally being run by a regime with a definite idea of where they are going and a credible plan as to how they will get there. Overseas recruitment is justified as long as it creates a winning environment in which native youngsters can thrive, they believe. And style will eventually arrive once real substance has been imbued into the squad, they hope.
The contrasting view (which has become increasingly prevalent after a run of seven defeats on the bounce) is that Solomons is railroading Edinburgh down the wrong track through a preoccupation with second-rate southern hemisphere imports who do little to improve standards and everything to undermine native ambition.
Only time will tell which of these views is right. There will be no excuses for Solomons next season because it will be his squad, prepared by his coaching team. For better or for worse, the 2014-15 campaign cannot come quickly enough as only then will we find out if the South African is the saviour or slayer of Edinburgh Rugby.
There is one figure involved in the club, however, who would just love this season to go on, and on, and on.
Now that Tim Visser is beginning to recover his match sharpness after a lay-off of almost six months, brought about by a fractured fibula and damaged ankle ligaments, he is desperate for some more game time so he can re-establish his credentials as one of the most potent marksmen in European rugby.
“It always takes me a few games to really get back into it. I played five minutes against Cardiff, then 80 minutes against Zebre, Glasgow and Munster, which means I’m now at the point where I’ll probably really start picking up my sharpness again – it’s a bit of a shame that it is now the end of the season for me and there is a big break coming up,” said the 26-year-old, who was the league’s top try scorer for four seasons on the trot before this year.
“It’s fresh for me because I’ve been away for so long. Leading up to this serious injury I was struggling with a few other things, like my foot injury which I carried for a long time. Now that has been able to heal properly, and with my body fully rested I am wondering how I ever picked up those little niggles in the first place? Why don’t I always feel this fresh?
“I would like to keep on playing because, when it comes to five games, that’s when I’m really at my top. But, ultimately, I’m just grateful that I managed to pick up a few games before the end of the season because it could well have been a much longer lay-off.”
So, while most of his team-mates will be looking forward to switching off for a few weeks and probably haven’t looked too far beyond that, Visser has already set his sights on Scotland’s arduous summer tour which takes in the USA, Canada, Argentina and South Africa. Incoming national coach Vern Cotter is expected to split the trip in two, with one squad for the North American leg of the tour, and a different group for the second two matches.
However, there is likely to be some crossover between these two – especially as the South Africa game falls outside the IRB window for international matches, which means English and French-based players are not likely to be available – and Visser reckons he is perfect to do the whole thing, with the added bonus that it would give him an extended opportunity to impress the new man in charge.
“I’m at the stage now I’d like to play as much rugby as I can, so if possible then yes of course [I’d like to go on the whole Scotland tour]. But, to be completely honest, all I want is to get in that squad. From where I am at the moment, and how other wingers have performed – people like Dougie Fife coming in and getting capped – it will just be great if I make the squad,” said the winger. “I think he [Cotter] is going to bring a new philosophy as all coaches do. He has got a history of success at Clermont, so that’s brilliant. In terms of impact on the tour, I’m not sure as he is obviously with Clermont at the moment, and he’s probably not had too much time looking at Scotland. But any new coach brings in a breath of fresh air and players always want to impress him, so psychologically I think that will be a big boost.”
• Tim Visser was speaking at the launch of RBS RugbyForce 2014, which aims to provide practical, promotional and financial assistance to allow clubs to put on events designed to showcase what they have to offer. Clubs have until 30 May to register. Visit: www.rbs.co.uk/scottishrugby.