Edinburgh warned not to write off South African sides ahead of URC double-header

After two rounds of games in the URC, the four South African teams have just one win between them - the Lions’ victory at Zebre on the first evening of the new tournament.

Edinburgh's Jaco van der Walt is not writing off the South African newcomers into the URC. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
Edinburgh's Jaco van der Walt is not writing off the South African newcomers into the URC. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

But, as his Edinburgh side get ready to play the Stormers then the Bulls on successive weekends at the DAM Health Stadium, Jaco van der Walt is convinced that the newcomers should not be written off as also-rans.

“It hasn’t been good for them so far, but you can’t underestimate the South African teams,” the stand-off said after Edinburgh’s 28-27 defeat by Benetton in Treviso. “They’re good teams with good individual players. They’re just getting used to a new tournament and to the weather as well - obviously in South Africa they get better weather and play expansive rugby. So it’s difficult for them to adjust to this weather to begin with, but it won’t take them long to get used to it and then we’ll see the best of them.”

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We have already seen glimpses of how good Edinburgh can be under new head coach Mike Blair, and their attacking prowess was again in evidence at times on Saturday. The four tries they scored - two from Ben Vellacott and others from Willem Nel and Stuart McInally - meant they returned home from the narrow defeat with two losing bonus points. But it was a match they could and probably should have won, with some unforced errors proving costly.

Both Van der Walt and Henry Immelman were off target with vital kicks, a late lineout failed to go five metres, and the concession of some penalties also proved costly. Van der Walt did briefly put his team ahead 27-25 with just a few minutes to go, adding the three points from the penalty to his two conversions, but Benetton had the last word when replacement fly-half Leonardo Marin scored the winning drop-goal with the last kick of the game.

“We made too many mistakes and we can’t afford to do that again,” the Scotland international added. “It would have been nice to have kicked the winning goal, but unfortunately it didn’t go my way or the team’s way. We’ll be better next week.”

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