Blair Kinghorn in squad as Edinburgh Rugby head to South Africa

Edinburgh will get some sun on their backs but it will be no holiday as they head to South Africa to play two matches in the United Rugby Championship.

Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)
Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Mike Blair’s side will take on the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and the Lions in Johannesburg seven days later.

It promises to be a testing but rewarding mini-tour for the capital side who have welcomed back a number of players following their involvement with Scotland in the Six Nations.

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Mark Bennett, Blair Kinghorn, Pierre Schoeman, Hamish Watson, Magnus Bradbury, Jamie Hodgson and Ben Vellacott are all included in Blair’s 32-man squad but Darcy Graham, Stuart McInally, Grant Gilchrist, WP Nel and Nick Haining have been left at home.

Edinburgh's Blair Kinghorn is in the squad for South Africa. (Photo by Bruce White / SNS Group)

“It’s a difficult thing to manage, this period, going to South Africa straight after the Six Nations,” said Blair. “We’ve got certain directives or players that we have to manage over this three-game period - the two South African games and then the Pau game [in the Challenge Cup on April 8].

“It’s a little bit about the individuals’ needs and a little bit about the team’s needs. For example, we are a little bit light in the back row at the moment, so that’s where Hamish comes in.

“We’re keen to get Blair [Kinghorn] a run of games where we can, especially after him starting the game against Ireland as well. There’s no real fixed rule - we’ve just tried to find the best way around everything.”

Blair felt Kinghorn acquitted himself well in Dublin where he was starting a Six Nations match at stand-off for the first time.

“I didn’t think he looked nervy in the game, or that the pressure was on him,” said the Edinburgh coach. “It looked like he was playing his natural game. Obviously I think his first touch was a pass to the floor and that could have been something that really hit him confidence-wise, but I saw someone there who can step up and do this job at that level.”

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Blair knows Edinburgh will need to acclimatise to the warmer weather and then try to cope with the altitude in Joburg.

“I think it’s around 25-27 [degrees] at the moment in Durban,” he said. “We play at five past five local time so it will be interesting to see whether the dew has started to come down at that stage or not.

“I know from watching the Scarlets game [versus the Sharks] it was kind of wet weather rugby in the dry because of the sweat and humidity so it’s something we’re going to have to be really conscious of.

“So it’s nice weather at the moment but maybe not really nice for playing rugby in.”

The altitude of Johannesburg is likely to be even more challenging.

“Some of the advice we’ve had is that you need to spend at least 10 days in there to have adapted properly, otherwise it’s best to go in and out,” said Blair.

“Obviously, with the Sharks game before we can’t do the 10 days so this is thought to be the best way round it and hopefully that will be the case.

“It’s going to be tough going however long you’re going to be in there but we’ll back ourselves to be able to handle it.”

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