ALAN Solomons will take over as Edinburgh’s head coach next week on a two-year deal, with another two coaches joining interim chief Stevie Scott in the new management team.
The SRU targeted Solomons for the role several months ago and, while they had hoped to announce him during Scotland’s tour to South Africa in June, chief executive Mark Dodson agreed to wait until Solomons’ commitments with Super Rugby franchise the Southern Kings came to an end.
His contract ends this weekend, by which time the Kings will have concluded their two-legged play-off with the Golden Lions and know whether they are to remain in the Super Rugby championship next season or be replaced by the Johannesburg outfit.
Solomons actually lives in Northern Ireland, having retained a home there since he first came to the UK from South Africa to take charge at Ulster in 2001. He took up the contract with the Kings to cover their inaugural Super Rugby campaign, but remains a UK citizen and he and his wife plan to move to Scotland next month. He has been keen to avoid comment out of respect for the Kings, but issued this statement through Edinburgh Rugby.
“This is a very exciting role at a club which has a huge amount of potential. The ambition and desire of everyone involved with the club to do whatever it takes to build its success, and the plans being put in place to achieve that, are very impressive. I’m very much looking forward to arriving in Edinburgh, teaming up with Stevie [Scott] and meeting the challenges head on.”
Dodson has been determined to follow his decisive action with Glasgow last summer, where he replaced Sean Lineen with Gregor Townsend and handed both teams an extra £1 million to fund their squad, with similar movement in the capital. Similarly, Glasgow retained their forwards coach Shade Munro and added Matt Taylor to the mix and will soon have Kenny Murray on board from Ayr.
Michael Bradley’s inability to build on a promising first season at Edinburgh led to his removal in March, along with assistants Neil Back and Billy McGinty, and Scott has led the team through the end of last season and this summer’s pre-season. The former Scotland hooker and Sale coach will be retained by Solomons, but the South African is expected to name another
experienced coach to take charge of defence.
An obvious candidate to tackle Edinburgh’s porous defence is Alan Tait, the former Scotland and dual-code GB and British and Irish Lions cap, who coached Scotland and Newcastle before quitting as head coach at Kingston Park last year, and who knows the players. However, Solomons may bring his own defence specialist with him. A fourth coach is also to be appointed, in line with Glasgow’s hiring of Murray, with another ambitious club coach to be handed an opportunity to develop with the capital squad.
Underlining the fresh look to the Edinburgh management team, they are appointing a new strength and conditioning coach to replace Andy Boyd, who has moved to a more wide-ranging role within the SRU, ensuring that it will be a wholly new management team to that which started last season.
Scott said: “I’m looking forward to building on the work done since the tail-end of last season with a highly experienced coach,” he said. “We’ll put everything into getting this club back into a position we can all be proud of.”
The moves will boost Edinburgh in the same way Glasgow received an almost complete overhaul last summer, but it is a different approach in that the SRU have opted for an experienced figure rather than the relatively inexperienced coach in Townsend.
Solomons turns 63 today and made his name on the world stage in 1998-99 when he assisted Nick Mallett in leading the Springboks to a world record run of 17 Test victories, which included an unbeaten Tri Nations success in 1998 and thumping record wins over Scotland, France and Wales. He also coached the Barbarians to victory over South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland, England and Wales.
Born in Uitanhage at the bottom of the Eastern Cape, it will be a case of second time lucky for Solomons in applying for a job with the SRU. In 2004, he was passed over at the final stage for the Scotland head coach role in favour of Matt Williams, and after the Australian’s poor run – he steered Scotland to just three Test wins in 17 games – we can only wonder now what might have occurred had a different choice been made.
After guiding Western Province to Currie Cup titles and the Stormers to the first Super Rugby win by a South African province, he proved his ability to coach in the northern hemisphere with Ulster. Their first success under Solomons, intriguingly, came at Murrayfield where they beat Edinburgh to land the inaugural Celtic Cup in 2003.
Ulster were never beaten at Ravenhill in the Heineken Cup during his three years and the club’s European ranking rose from 37th to tenth.
After a short stint at Northampton, where he was fired within two months of taking on the chief post, and a spell back in South Africa, Solomons worked for the IRB as a high performance consultant from 2007 to 2011 before guiding his home Eastern Province to Currie Cup titles in 2010 and 2012, and lifting the IRB Nations Cup with South Africa’s second-string side, called the South Africa Kings.
The SRU’s new director of rugby Scott Johnson insisted that Solomons’ two-year appointment was designed to bring a new stability and success to the capital club.
He said: “We have conducted a global search through scores of candidates who have shown a great deal of enthusiasm for helping us realise the potential in Edinburgh Rugby.
“This pair [Solomons and Scott] offer an excellent balance of experience, passion and success, as well as in-depth knowledge of the local and international rugby scenes, something which we are looking forward seeing put to the test at Murrayfield.”
Dodson added: “Alan is an exceptional character and coach and one we believe will help steer Edinburgh Rugby towards our strategic objective of consistently reaching the RaboDirect play-offs and the knockout rounds of the Heineken Cup.”