Edinburgh Rugby: Jaco van der Walt open to new role as Blair Kinghorn takes over at stand-off

Jaco van der Walt made his Scotland breakthrough last season but a combination of injury and Blair Kinghorn’s fine form has left him on the periphery for Edinburgh for much of the season.

Blair Kinghorn, left, has impressed Jaco van der Walt since moving to stand-off. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
Blair Kinghorn, left, has impressed Jaco van der Walt since moving to stand-off. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS

The playmaker is now back to full fitness and believes he can still play an important role as the club chase honours on two fronts. Van der Walt played the final 26 minutes of Saturday’s 41-19 victory over Bath, stepping off the bench to help set up Emiliano Boffelli for his second try of the night.

It is a role he has had to become accustomed to this season, although he did play the full 80 against Pau in the Challenge Cup, contributing 12 points to the 54-5 win.

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The decision to reinvent Kinghorn as a stand-off has seen van der Walt lose his status as the club’s first-choice. Kinghorn has revelled in his new role, a fact acknowledged by his rival for the No 10 jersey.

Jaco van der Walt says he would be happy to play centre or full-back for Edinburgh. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

“It has not been an ideal season for myself,” said van der Walt, who made his Scotland debut against Ireland in the 2020 Autumn Nations Cup. “But it has been good for the squad and any game time is perfect. I was fortunate enough to get some at the weekend and it was awesome to represent the club.

“I appreciate any position I can play. Obviously I would like to play 10, but Blair has been in great form this season. If I need to slot in at full-back or centre or wherever I am happy with that.

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“He has been in absolutely great form. I think we feed off each other. I learned from him and it is the same the other way. It is difficult to say [what I have to do] at the moment because he is in really great form and all credit to him.”

Van der Walt made a bright start to the season and was player of the match in the 20-20 draw with Stormers in October, retaining his place for the win over the Bulls a week later before being sidelined.

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Jaco van der Walt came off the bench in Edinburgh's Challenge Cup win over Bath. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

“I've had a couple of injuries. I had a knock against the head and when I got back I played a couple of good games against the South African teams and then got a shoulder injury.

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“It hasn't been a great season for me thus far with being injured almost all the time and it is difficult to get that momentum again – especially when you have guys like Blair and Charlie Savala doing so well.”

Edinburgh are on course to secure a play-off place in the United Rugby Championship and Saturday’s win over Bath took them into the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup where they will face Wasps at home next month. A win there would set up a semi-final against either Lyon or Glasgow and Van der Walt believes Edinburgh should be considered genuine contenders for silverware.

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“We have had great results so far and hopefully we can bring it all the way to the final and hopefully win it,” he said. “That would mean a lot for the club and also for us as players. It would show all the hard work we put into the season.”