Mike Blair keen for Edinburgh to keep playing expansively but knows balance is key against Stormers

A meeting between two sides who are committed to attacking rugby has made Saturday’s match-up between the Stormers and Edinburgh the pick of the United Rugby Championship quarter-finals in many people’s eyes.

Darcy Graham scores the opening try during Edinburgh's 20-20 draw with DHL Stormers in October. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Darcy Graham scores the opening try during Edinburgh's 20-20 draw with DHL Stormers in October. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The teams served up a thriller – in the first half at least – when they met at the DAM Health Stadium earlier in the season and had to settle for a share of the spoils in a 20-20 draw.

Mike Blair, the Edinburgh coach, is not sure how much relevance that match has in regards to this weekend’s game in Cape Town but he was happy to talk up his side’s commitment to attack.

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John Barclay spent two seasons at Edinburgh under Blair’s predecessor, Richard Cockerill, when the philosophy was decidedly more conservative and the former Scotland captain wondered this week if the capital club would benefit from a little pragmatism in South Africa.

Blair knows there is more than one way to skin a cat but he was betraying little sign of altering his philosophy when asked about his club’s style of play.

“What people have picked up on is that Edinburgh are playing more than they have in the last four years,” he said.

“Edinburgh have had success over the past couple of years but from an attacking point of view it was not a priority. It was built around a strong defence and a good kicking game.

“What we have tried to do is expand on that a little bit. I don’t think we are kamikaze, or Barbarians rugby but we have confidence that when we see opportunity and space we try and take it. We are still very aware that balance in the game is very important, especially so in this game.”

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Edinburgh were two tries to the good against Stormers after only six minutes in October before Warrick Gelant replied for the South Africans three minutes later. It was a blistering start and inevitably the pace slowed, with no points scored in the second half.

Blair has played down the significance of the 20-20 game and it should be noted that the Stormers were missing their Springboks, including mighty props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff.

“A lot of rugby has been played since then,” said Blair. “There will have been some decent turnover in team selections, as well. But there will be a little bit of familiarity, I guess, in terms of what the two teams are trying to do.”

Ben Vellacott scores an early try for Edinburgh against the Stormers at the DAM Health Stadium. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

Edinburgh’s experienced hooker Stuart McInally could return for the quarter-final having been out with a calf injury since the home defeat by Ulster on April 30.

Blair said: “Stuart made the trip. We are just seeing how he gets through the next couple of days. He has been looking OK at the moment so we will make a decision on that later in the week.

“There is a real balance to it. Dave [Cherry] and Adam [McBurney] have done really well when they have been in the jersey as well. Stuart is an international quality player who has played really well for us. We will make the right decision at the time.”

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