Why Edinburgh Rugby's clash with Zebre is significant as Pierre Schoeman reveals milestone birthday celebrations

URC play-off hopes hinge on Hive clash with Italian outfit on Friday night

Games against Zebre are among the least glamorous occasions on offer in the URC. When it comes to taking on the league’s back markers, the theory – and often the practice too – is that you turn up, take the points and move on with the minimum of fuss.

Pierre Schoeman, for one, hopes that Edinburgh’s home match against the Italians on Friday night follows that familiar pattern. At the same time, however, he is well aware that this particular meeting with the team from Parma has the potential to be one of his side’s most important matches of the season.

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A glance at the 16-team table shows why. With three rounds of the regular season to go, Edinburgh lie ninth, a point and a place out of the play-offs. Three teams – Connacht, Ulster and Benetton – are a point ahead of them, while a fourth, the Stormers, are two points better off. With games against Munster and Benetton to follow, the Zebre match offers Schoeman’s team their best remaining chance of claiming a five-point haul. But by the same token, the Scotland prop knows it is also an occasion fraught with danger.

Pierre Schoeman and Edinburgh are fighting for a place in the top eight of the URC.Pierre Schoeman and Edinburgh are fighting for a place in the top eight of the URC.
Pierre Schoeman and Edinburgh are fighting for a place in the top eight of the URC.

“We know how crucial this is for us,” Schoeman said yesterday, his 30th birthday. “This can easily define you positive or negatively. It’s a massive game. It’s a must-win for us and everyone knows it.”

Zebre have only one victory to their name so far in this campaign, but they do have nine bonus points to Edinburgh’s three. That meagre haul of extra points has the potential to damage the Scottish side’s chances of qualifying for the play-offs, and Schoeman knows that claiming a fourth on Friday could well be vital. "The first job is to get the win,” he added. “We have to respect them, [but] we have to have the confidence to go for the bonus point as well.”

The celebrations were muted in the Schoeman household on Tuesday evening, but if things do go his team’s way on Friday, the big man will allow himself to mark the occasion belatedly. “Steak to celebrate tonight,” he said. “No cake. A few Tennent’s after a win on Friday."



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