‘No excuses: we’ve got to deliver’ – Edinburgh Rugby upbeat, Pierre Schoeman returns, target is first Euro semi in nine years

The capital club are ready to maintain European challenge in Durban but face an acid test

Back in his homeland and up against the team he worked with for a decade and a half, Sean Everitt was in bullish form as he looked forward to his Edinburgh side’s EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-final with the Sharks in South Africa.

It’s nine years since the capital club reached a Euro semi but Everitt is confident about the team’s chances in Durban and has picked his strongest possible line-up from those available to him. That means a return for Scotland prop Pierre Schoeman who missed the win over Bayonne in the round of 16 due to concussion.

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He replaces Luan de Bruin at loosehead in the only change and takes the number of full caps in Everitt’s starting XV up to 12. The Sharks are similarly stuffed full of international players, with Eben Etzebeth a notable returnee after the Springboks lock pulled out last week’s win over Zebre.

Pierre Schoeman is one of 12 full internationals in the Edinburgh Rugby starting XV to play the Sharks in Durban in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)Pierre Schoeman is one of 12 full internationals in the Edinburgh Rugby starting XV to play the Sharks in Durban in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals.  (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Pierre Schoeman is one of 12 full internationals in the Edinburgh Rugby starting XV to play the Sharks in Durban in the Challenge Cup quarter-finals. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

The stakes are high and Everitt believes a win over the Sharks would be the biggest result of his short tenure with Edinburgh. “The fact is if we win on Saturday and Ulster beat Clermont away then we get a home semi-final at Hive,” he said. “The team is confident we can turn the Sharks over. We wouldn’t be bringing our best team if we didn’t believe that was the case so we’re confident of doing that this weekend.”

Schoeman will be key to this as the Edinburgh scrum goes up against a trio of World Cup-winners in Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch.

“Apart from world-class rugby playing ability, he brings leadership to the team and confidence when he’s there,” Everitt said of Schoeman. “We know he’s proud to wear the Edinburgh jersey and with us facing a world class front row, Pierre is vitally important. The team will take confidence out of Pierre and I’m sure he’ll lead from the front.”

Edinburgh are back in Durban for the second time in as many weeks and there is determination to atone for the 23-13 loss to the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship a fortnight ago. The fact that Grant Gilchrist, the second-row stalwart, is making his 200th appearance is a powerful motivator but there is also the realisation that this is Edinburgh’s best chance of landing silverware this season given they currently sit ninth in the URC, one position below the play-off places.

Winning in South Africa isn’t easy, of course, but Everitt has been refreshingly upbeat about the challenges of returning to the southern hemisphere at such short notice. The squad are enjoying training in the warm weather, he said, and the journey was relatively painless because they went business class.

“The travel this week has been easy for us,” said the coach. “We flew out overnight on Tuesday, arrived here on Wednesday morning and we’ve had an uninterrupted training week. We’re back in familiar surroundings. We spent a week here two weeks ago and the guys are used to the weather and conditions.

“The guys are confident and comfortable here in Durban now and the more you play in familiar conditions the better you get at it. I wouldn’t say it’s the same as playing at home but it does make it easier this time around.

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“Having the smooth transport that we had to South Africa and good logisitics obviously helps a lot and it’s less disruptive for us.

“We’re a close-knit group. The guys enjoy each other’s company and that’s always important when you go away from home. So for us this week, I suppose it’s no excuses: we’ve got to deliver.”

The Sharks are finding their groove after a sticky start to the season which has left them well adrift in the URC. They've won their last three matches and Mbonambi, their highly decorated hooker, feels they are coming to the boil. “The mood in the camp is good, there’s a lot of energy and the injured guys coming back, like Emile van Heerden, Eben Etzebeth and Vincent Koch, make a big difference to the forward pack,” he said.

The hosts will be favourites but Edinburgh have won in Durban before and Everitt thinks his team can go all the way in this competition.

“We believe we can win the EPCR and we believe that we can get into the top eight of the URC,” he said. “So for me, it wasn’t about resting players, it’s an opportunity to do as best as we can.”

Sharks v Edinburgh: EPCR Challenge Cup quarter-finals, Kings Park, Durban, Saturday, 12.30pm BST. TV: live on TNT Sports.

Sharks: 15. Aphelele Fassi; 14. Werner Kok, 13. Lukhanyo Am (c), 12. Ethan Hooker, 11. Makazole Mapimpi; 10. Siya Masuku, 9. Jaden Hendrikse; 1. Ox Nche, 2. Bongi Mbonambi, 3. Vincent Koch, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 5. Emile van Heerden, 6. James Venter, 7. Vincent Tshituka, 8. Phepsi Buthelezi. Replacements: 16. Dan Jooste, 17. Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18. Hanro Jacobs, 19. Corne Rahl, 20. Lappies Labuschagne, 21. Grant Williams, 22. Curwin Bosch, 23. Francois Venter.

Edinburgh: 15. Wes Goosen; 14. Jacob Henry, 13. Mark Bennett, 12. Matt Currie, 11. Duhan van der Merwe; 10. Ben Healy, 9. Ben Vellacott; 1. Pierre Schoeman, 2. Ewan Ashman, 3. WP Nel, 4. Sam Skinner, 5. Grant Gilchrist (c), 6. Jamie Ritchie, 7. Hamish Watson, 8. Bill Mata. Replacements: 16. Dave Cherry, 17. Boan Venter, 18. D’Arcy Rae, 19. Jamie Hodgson, 20. Luke Crosbie, 21. Ali Price, 22. James Lang, 23. Chris Dean.

Referee: Matthew Carley (Eng).



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