Pierre Schoeman braced for Edinburgh’s ‘Test match’ against Saracens and fuelled by memories of last season
The first anniversary of that win at the StoneX Stadium falls on Sunday when Mike Blair’s side return to Barnet to take on the Premiership high flyers.
Last season it was the second-tier Challenge Cup; this time around it’s the elite Heineken Champions Cup. It’s a step up in class and Saracens have upped their game in the interim, winning nine from nine in the league to sit atop the table as they ready themselves for an assault on European rugby’s biggest prize, a trophy they won three times in four seasons before they were found guilty of salary cap breaches and relegated to the Championship.
The club has restored much of its old indomitability but Edinburgh prop Pierre Schoeman believes his side’s 21-18 win last winter can both inspire the visitors and remind them of what they have to do to subdue their hosts.
“It’s a very important memory for us, although it was a while ago and they have won nine out of nine on the bounce,” said Schoeman. “It’s going to be a massive game and we have to be on it, especially after last week. We’re going to have to prep well for Sunday.
“The key [to last season’s win] was to do the basics well, especially in the big pressure moments. It’s almost like a Test match, that’s what Mike keeps telling us during the week, so in those pressure moments we have to be smart, make good decisions.
“In training, we’ve been trying to replicate the game as best we can, with our discipline, because that’s going to be a key element as well. We need to have a good lineout, a good set-piece. We have to stay in every moment and keep the focus for 80 minutes.”
While Saracens’ form has been unquestionable, Edinburgh have suffered a bit of a dip since returning after the autumn Test window. They lost away to a Benetton side reduced to 14 men and then gave up at half-time lead at home to Munster, going down 38-17 last Friday.
Schoeman and fellow prop Luan de Bruin were taken off at half-time and had to watch helplessly as the Irish visitors overturned Edinburgh’s advantage and ran away with the game.
“It was frustrating, because we know what we are capable of,” acknowledged the loosehead. “In training, we replicate that as well, we’ve won games like last year’s against Saracens, and for us it’s about having the confidence of consistency for 80 minutes. That way, we’ll get the wins. The lack of focus possibly in the second half let us down. It was a momentum shift of two penalties and a knock-on and a kick that’s not gone right. You just have to stay in the moment, rectify it and win the moment. That comes back to the consistency habits of 80 minutes.”
Sunday will require the complete performance if Edinburgh are to repeat the upset of last season.
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