Scotland quartet return for Edinburgh Rugby - whose destiny is in their own hands as play-off battle hots up

A heavyweight clash awaits in Durban as Sharks look to get own season back on track

Two points separate the six teams that occupy fifth to tenth place in the United Rugby Championship with six rounds remaining of the regular season. The margins are tight in the race to make the top eight but Edinburgh coach Sean Everitt believes his club’s destiny remains firmly in their own hands.

The capital side are sixth, a point behind fifth-placed Stormers who beat them last week, and they round off their mini-tour of South Africa against the Sharks in hot and humid Durban on Saturday. A win would be the perfect tonic ahead of a three-week URC hiatus. Defeat could leave Edinburgh facing a real scrap to make the play-offs.

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Their cause at Kings Park is helped by the return of Scotland quartet Duhan van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman and Jamie Ritchie in their first outing since the Six Nations and the feeling is they will very much be needed against a Sharks side loaded with Springboks. Their front row looks particularly daunting, boasting as it does three World Cup winners in Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi and Vincent Koch. Behind them are the towering Eben Etzebeth and South African Under-20 international Emile van Heerden, and Everitt believes the game could boil down to who wins the battle in the tight five. Not that he is ignoring the threats in the opposition backline.

“The Sharks are a team who like the ball in hand approach,” said the Edinburgh coach who spent 15 years with the Natal club in various coaching roles between 2007 and 2022. “They have an electrifying back-three. I see they’ve brought Wermer Kok back, with Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi. I know them well. They are good counter-attackers.

“And they’ve got a very strong set-piece, which is what they pride themselves on. Saying that, we’re very proud of the internationals in our group. We’ve got an all-Scotland international front row and second row starting, so I think it will be a battle of the tight. They will believe that they can get ascendancy up front, in the scrums and mauls to build pressure and cause us to give away penalties. So, the major challenge for us will be to sustain that pressure, but at the same time we want to play rugby, we want to score tries and get a result as well.”

Edinburgh came to Kings Park in 2022 and triumphed, becoming the first northern hemisphere side to win on South African soil in the URC. Everitt, who was in charge of the Sharks that day, thinks the visitors can still take heart from that result.

“I think it’s extremely relevant as it gives you confidence,” he said. “They’ve been taking the mickey out of me for the last six months since I came to Edinburgh for that win at Kings Park. The first win of an overseas team in South Africa and the team is really proud of what they achieved. The Sharks fielded an almost Springboks team that day and they were able to overturn that. For me that gives the team belief and they’re desperate to get another result.

Duhan van der Merwe returns to the Edinburgh side for the match in South Africa against the Sharks at Kings Park. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)Duhan van der Merwe returns to the Edinburgh side for the match in South Africa against the Sharks at Kings Park. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)
Duhan van der Merwe returns to the Edinburgh side for the match in South Africa against the Sharks at Kings Park. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

“Our destiny is still in our own hands and we’ve got to make the most of this opportunity to try to get as many points as we can.”

Hollywoodbets Sharks v Edinburgh Rugby: URC, Kings Park, Durban, Saturday, 1pm UK. TV: live on Premier Sports.

Sharks: Aphelele Fassi; Werner Kok, Lukhanyo Am (c), Francois Venter, Makazole Mapimpi; Siya Masuka, Jaden Hendrikse; Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Emile van Heerden, James Venter, Vincent Tshituka, Phepsi Buthelezi. Replacements: Dan Jooste, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Hanro Jacobs, Corne Rahl, Jeandre Labuschagne, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Ethan Hooker

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Edinburgh: Wes Goosen; Jake Henry, Matt Currie, Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe; Ben Healy, Ben Vellacott (c); Pierre Schoeman, Ewan Ashman, WP Nel, Jamie Hodgson, Sam Skinner, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata. Replacements: Dave Cherry, Boan Venter, Javan Sebastian, Marshall Sykes, Connor Boyle, Charlie Shiel, Cammy Scott, James Lang.

Referee: Eoghan Cross (IRFU).



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