Sean Everitt reveals his Edinburgh targets and areas for improvement - 'small things that need to be fixed'
The South African has taken over from Mike Blair who stepped down after a disappointing second season in charge which saw Edinburgh finish 12th in the United Rugby Championship, winning six of their 18 league games.
Everitt, 53, is targeting a return to the top eight and a place in the play-offs and doesn’t think the team are far away. Interestingly, he used his first media conference to highlight their poor goalkicking stats, particularly relevant given how many matches Edinburgh lost by small margins last season. He’s also keen to see the squad tighten up defensively and not concede so many turnovers while retaining the club’s commitment to attacking rugby.
“The philosophy of Edinburgh Rugby is similar to mine,” said Everitt, who spent 15 years with the Durban-based Sharks, latterly as head coach. “I enjoy their attacking style. I’m an attack-minded coach, although I have coached on the other side of the ball. There’s not a hell of a lot that needs to change at Edinburgh. I think there’s a great foundation that has been laid over the last few years. I think Mike Blair has done a good job. But there are small things that need to get fixed.
“If you look at the games where Edinburgh have come up short in the last campaign, it would probably be from a turnover point of view - turnovers conceded. Against Saracens, for instance, a game that they lost 30-26, they could easily have won that game had they not conceded as many turnovers. And that seems to be a trend within the group, so we need to tighten up in attack and be more accurate there. And then the biggest one for me is obviously defensively, but that’s linked to the turnovers that you concede - if you leak a lot of turnovers you are going to be under the pump from a defensive point of view. So we need to tighten up the defence, because although we scored a lot of tries we also conceded a lot of tries.
“And then something that a lot of people lose sight of is our goal-kicking accuracy. Edinburgh kicked 62 per cent in the URC, so when you’re losing games narrowly, you tend to over-analyse where those faults are, and they’re staring you straight in the face. We need to kick 80 per cent plus if you want to challenge for a trophy.”
The club’s frontline kickers are away at the World Cup so Everitt is looking at centre James Lang and veteran stand-off Tim Swiel to take over. Swiel joined the club this week having previously worked with Everitt at the Sharks early on in his career.
“At the moment James Lang is kicking really well and he’ll probably be first choice when the international players are away,” said Everitt. “Tim Swiel, who has been a late recruit, is also a goal-kicker if he can make the starting 23 - we’re going to have a close look at him over the next several weeks and see where he’s at. And then we’ve got choices when the internationals come back. We’ve got Ben Healy, Emiliano Boffelli and Blair Kinghorn.”
Eyebrows were raised when Everitt’s appointment was described as “senior coach” rather than “head coach”, with Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson suggesting he might “further strengthen the coaching group as the season progresses”. Everitt seemed relaxed about the possibility of someone else being brought in.
“Well, we’re not sure of where the coaches’ needs will be,” he said. “I think it’s all around how the team functions, whether they bring in extra coaches or not. We will always look to strengthen our coaching staff like we do to strengthen our playing group. And that would be the same for any other franchise. You’re never secure in this job, because it’s result-based and we know how professional sport can be. But I’m here to do a job and lead the coaching team and do the best that I can do.”
Everitt, who parted company with the Sharks last November after a bruising 35-0 defeat by Cardiff, has a youngish coaching group around him at Edinburgh, with Stevie Lawrie, 39, as forwards coach, Michael Todd, 33, in charge of defence and new recruit Rob Chrystie, 45, joining last month as assistant skills and attack coach. The aim is to galvanise the squad for the new URC campaign which won't start until October 21 because of the World Cup. Edinburgh finished seventh in Blair’s first season in charge to reach the play-offs and it’s what Everitt is aiming for.
“Success for Edinburgh would be to get back into the top eight and qualify for the Champions Cup,” said Everitt, who had a short spell as a consultant with the Bulls last season after being dismissed by the Sharks. “I think that would be every URC team’s KPI. If we are able to build a good foundation, which we have at the moment, and start the competition well . . . And there will be challenges for us, with having 16 internationals out for the first two rounds, and that’s the reason why we’ve worked incredibly hard with this young group at the moment.
“The home play-offs would always be our goal. We do see top eight as the major goal, but we’d like to see ourselves challenging for competitions and cups and be at home in semi-finals.”
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