South Africa trip sowed seeds for Edinburgh’s derby triumph

Matt Scott presents the 1872 trophy to Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons. Picture: Neil Hanna.
Matt Scott presents the 1872 trophy to Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons. Picture: Neil Hanna.
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Edinburgh Rugby supporters have become used to a steady stream of South African players arriving at BT Murrayfield since former Springboks assistant coach Alan Solomons took the reins.

But it was on a trip to that country last summer that seeds of the team’s biggest victory since Solomons’ arrival – a 20-8 triumph over Glasgow in the Guinness Pro 12 to claim the 1872 Cup staged over two legs of the fixture – may have been sown.

Forwards coach Stevie Scott has revealed how a trip to Pretoria to work with the world’s most capped second-row player is now paying dividends and helping put Edinburgh Rugby on track to fulfil ambitions including European glory and a top-six finish in the league.

Last summer, former Scotland international hooker Scott undertook a fact-finding mission to the Blue Bulls Super-15 franchise, whose star player is 121-times capped Victor Matfield.

Speaking about the venture for the first time, Scott said: “Alan had a connection with the Bulls and I spent over a week with Victor Matfield.

“I expected the best line-out forward in the world to tell me something that was this magic formula. In fact, Victor was big on the small stuff, especially the detail of understanding how defences are lining up against you.

“There was a lot of emphasis on getting the message across to players to recognise different situations and adapt. It was a very valuable learning experience for me – huge, in fact.”

The trip was also a vote of confidence in Scott, who gambled by giving up a relatively secure academy coaching post to commit to becoming involved at pro level.

“I made a choice to leave Scottish rugby and better myself at Sale because I wanted to be a professional coach,” he said.

“I am just glad I took that opportunity and I am grateful also that Johnno [director of rugby Scott Johnson] gave me the chance to come back here and take responsibility with Edinburgh.

“I am passionate about this club. It is my club. To have played 99 times ... I might try and get another game some time to bring up my 100. Seriously, the club means a lot to me and I am proud we did well in beating Glasgow last weekend.

“We didn’t get it right the week before but did so in the home leg with a very physical performance.

“We targeted the breakdown and were superb at shifting bodies [in the rucks]. Glasgow rely a lot on slowing ball down and contesting a breakdown, but we stepped up.

“Earlier success in Europe contributed to last Friday’s win because we started to gain confidence from winning as we did in Bordeaux.”

Partly hampered by injuries, it has been a season where the Edinburgh coaches have had to stick to their beliefs.

“When things are going wrong you look at yourself first as a coach,” admitted Scott.

“If you have strong principals and strong values and strong ways about how the game should be played, you have to stick with that.

“You ride through it and get results like last weekend. We had belief in the players and in ourselves as coaches. We knew we could win if we just upped our game a wee bit.”

It helps that some of Scott’s charges are running into form ahead of the Six Nations.

Indeed Edinburgh Rugby had better get used to a new pressure –expectation which, in its own way, is surely the ultimate compliment?