Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons has heaped praise on back-rower Cornell du Preez as he prepares to make his 50th appearance for the club against Treviso in the Guinness PRO12 at BT Murrayfield this evening.
The South Africa-born forward, who becomes eligible to represent Scotland in October, missed most of last season with a serious leg injury but has battled back and has been one of Edinburgh’s most consistent performers this season.
Solomons said: “Cornell has made a massive contribution to Edinburgh. There are not many people who would have had the ankle injury he has had and come back to play like he has.
“He is going to play in pain for a while. He trains and plays and has a bit of pain there, obviously. It is the kind of injury that will take 18 months to clear up. He is a class rugby player but he also has heaps of courage.”
Du Preez has featured in all of Edinburgh’s league games this season and plays at No.8 tonight as the Capital side look to roll on from the glory of the 1872 Cup triumph and bank more valuable PRO12 points tonight.
“It is definitely a landmark, it has come around quickly and I didn’t really expect it,” said the 24-year-old. “Hopefully I will put in a good performance.
“It is always a process that takes quite a while and obviously they said it would take quite a few months to get right, but there has been a lot of improvement. It is just something you have to deal with I guess and manage yourself during the week and get yourself right for the weekend.
“Especially now that I have been playing a lot of games I miss quite a lot of contact sessions during the week, but you just go away and do a bit of swimming and get some ice on the leg and it comes together.”
Solomons has been forced into a few changes from the side that beat Glasgow 14-11 last weekend to secure the 1872 double. Greig Tonks comes in at stand-off in place of Saturday’s tryscorer Phil Burleigh, who picked up a neck injury.
Alex Toolis moves up from the bench to partner Anton Bresler in the second row, in place of brother Ben who has hurt his elbow after recently recovering from a three-month lay-off.
Neil Cochrane moves up from the bench in place of hooker Ross Ford who sustained a rib injury last week.
Stuart McInally will provide cover for the No.2 shirt on the bench as he returns to the squad for the first time since he was forced out of the Scotland World Cup squad. McInally hasn’t featured for Edinburgh since the European Challenge Cup semi-final win over Dragons last season in which he scored a try.
With the Six Nations looming on the horizon the news about Ford’s injury is a concern but Solomons said: “I don’t know yet really. He says he has had this before and hopefully it will clear up relatively quickly. I am not in a position to comment on that. It is his rib cartilage, he says he has had it before and it comes right fairly quickly.”
The coach paid tribute to McInally, who has returned on schedule from the neck injury which led to him missing the World Cup.
“It is great news for him and the club, not only is he a very, very good player but he has very strong leadership qualities,” said Solomons. “Having him back in the mix makes a huge difference to us. It is great to have him back. I know he is champing at the bit and really looking forward to playing. It is good to have him back.
“He has coped really well. He is a really intelligent boy and he gets the perspective on it. He knows that all things being equal his is going to have a really good career with Scotland and Edinburgh.
“He has worked hard, is looking in good nick and if it fantastic to have him back.”
Following the emotion of back-to-back wins over their inter-city rivals and PRO12 champions, tonight’s game against the struggling Italians presents a different challenge.
Treviso haven’t won this season but Solomons said Edinburgh will need to retain the similar focus they have shown in the past couple of weeks.
“That is what being a pro side is about,” he said. “You look at Treviso when they went to Glasgow and were very unlucky not to win that game, you have got to take that into consideration and the players are aware of that.
“They are aware that they are professional rugby players and need to perform at the weekend.
“Treviso were unlucky not to turn Glasgow over so we’ve got to be prepared for a tough game.”