Edinburgh Rugby won't change their gameplan despite change in altitude

Mike Blair does not expect playing at altitude to limit Edinburgh’s gameplan when they take on the Emirates Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair.
Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair.

After becoming the first northern hemisphere side to win in South Africa since the launch of the United Rugby Championship at the start of this season by getting the better of Sharks amid a biblical downpour in Durban last Saturday, Edinburgh are now looking to make it two from two on their mini-tour to the southern hemisphere from a smash and grab mission to the Highveld – 1,800 metres above sea level – this weekend

“We will be at altitude, but I don't want to use that as an excuse or something to be concerned about,” said Blair. “The initial research that we looked at suggested we either do 24 hours in Johannesburg and play the game or spend 10 days acclimatising. So, we decided to base ourselves in Durban and just travel for the game and go home.

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“We’ll see how things work out. We trained in the heat today and the guys will get a physiological boost from that, but it will also take a bit out of them in terms of dehydration and fatigue.“We’d usually do a double session today, units in the morning and then team session in the afternoon, but we condensed it,” he added. “So, it’s been intense, but it’s been a little bit shorter, and it will be short again on Thursday and Friday, then hopefully we’ll have plenty in the legs and the lungs for Saturday.

"With the rugby we want to play, 23 degrees is manageable although it will get a bit sweaty. We trained today in Durban in 27 or 28 and the guys were handling that okay."

The Lions have won three home games on the bounce, including a 45-15 dismantling of the Ospreys last Friday, which has pushed the South African side right back into the mix to make the play-offs at the end of this URC season.

“We’re wary of the Lions’ transition attacks off loose balls, and of giving too much space to their outside backs,” said Blair. “The set-piece is another area where we believe they will try to challenge us, but I thought we handled the Sharks scrum okay in the end last week – we dug in and we’ll look to do the same again this week.”