Richard Cockerill says Edinburgh will still be underdogs at Scotstoun

South African Duhan van der Merwe receives the plaudits of the Edinburgh fans at full-time after his two tries. Picture: SNS/SRU
South African Duhan van der Merwe receives the plaudits of the Edinburgh fans at full-time after his two tries. Picture: SNS/SRU
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The winning of the tactical battle was self evident but this was also a psychological triumph for Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill, another feather in the cap after what has been a transformative year-and-a-half in the job.

The former England hooker was forged in the dog-eat-dog world of the English Premiership and has brought a welcome new edge to these derby clashes. He questioned if Glasgow could handle being favourites? The answer was clear.

At the eve-of-game press conference, he also, unprompted, raised the comments by opposing stand-off Adam Hastings who had said Glasgow were targeting a maximum ten points from ten from the festive double-header.

Blunders from the youngster proved decisive as two passes were intercepted by impressive wing Duhan van der Merwe to see Edinburgh ultimately cruise to victory.

It was a chastening evening for the 22-year-old Hastings but he seems cut from the same cloth as Finn Russell, not to mention his old man Gavin, and the scars are unlikely to linger. More lessons learned for this most promising of prospects.

Cockerill remained adamant that his side will still be underdogs at Scotstoun this weekend despite the dominance of this victory, which made it seven wins out of the last nine inter-city meetings for the capital pro team, who are looking to take the trophy for a fourth time in five years.

“One hundred percent,” said the Englishman when asked if he could legitimately keep pleading underdog status. “They are top of their [Pro14] conference, they’ve got a stellar squad of big names in that backline,” said Cockerill.

“We haven’t got the depth that they have. The sum of our parts is the key for us, the bit that is really important.

“We don’t rely on individual brilliance because we haven’t got it. We rely on team spirit and good cohesion and good strategy. We don’t rely on giving it to a bit of stardust to give us some magic because we don’t have it.

“They are at home. They have all the national players, the whole backline, all that stuff. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”

It was a victory that owed much to South Africans who have aspirations to play for Scotland. The increasingly impressive Van der Merwe finished both interceptions from distance in style, while Jaco van der Walt was on song with the boot. Both were signed when the residency rule was set at three years and hope to be part of Scotland’s post-World Cup future.

Their compatriot, Pierre Schoeman, will have to wait for the now mandatory five years, but the 24-year-old loosehead was another key man as Edinburgh bossed the set-piece.

Glasgow’s only points came from a converted Peter Horne try, set up by his younger brother George’s in-goal chip ahead to keep the match in the balance, just 13-7 to Edinburgh at half-time. It was almost a carbon copy of the one the pair almost conjured in Scotland colours during the opening November Test in Wales, although on that occasion the elder Horne hadn’t been able to ground correctly.

The Warriors had co-captain Callum Gibbins sin-binned in the second half but could have no complaints about the decision and, so one-sided was the contest, can’t claim it had a material effect on the outcome.

Cockerill was left to reflect proudly on another step forward in an Edinburgh journey he feels still has many more golden moments ahead.

“When I arrived 18 months ago, this team was a bottom-four team that nobody respected. Eighteen months later we are a team that has some cohesion and we have some bloody good men in that changing room,” said the coach. “We are working hard and they are bloody good players. Give it another 24 or 36 months.

“I said that last year, we ain’t going away. We’re going to stay here for a long time and we’re going to get 
better.”

Cockerill may point to Glasgow’s star backs but they couldn’t do much due to his pack of star forwards.

“[That’s] only because they work hard and they’re well coached,” he said. “They’ve earned their spots. It wasn’t the whole Scotland pack when I arrived, was it?”

Cockerill now expects a response from Glasgow and has the experience to draw on from last year when victory at BT Murrayfield was followed by a 17-0 loss at Scotstoun. “They are a good side and this will be another game, another opportunity,” said the coach. “We had a bit of luck tonight: we forced things with our defence, they made some errors and we scored off intercepts. That’s unlikely to happen next week. We’ve got to sharpen our attack a little bit.

“Last year was tough. It was 12-0 until the last minute. They are a good side. We know they are good side. We’ve got a huge amount of respect for them.”

Van der Merwe, meanwhile, admitted he was delighted with his early Christmas presents, although the big man still had lots to do both times he caught Hastings out.

“I haven’t spoken to [Adam]. I’ll say thank you to him for the two tries,” said the 23-year-old wing with a smile after the match.

“They like to play wide, that’s one of their things, so, if you take their space, they’re obviously going to force it and they forced it a lot because they were behind.”