Rugby: Roddy Grant hails Edinburgh’s African links

Roddy Grant celebrates Edinburgh's win over Newport. Picture: SNS
Roddy Grant celebrates Edinburgh's win over Newport. Picture: SNS
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When it comes to Edinburgh Rugby’s scrummaging, it is undoubtedly a case of so far so good – as the platform provided for the winning penalty to defeat Newport Gwent Dragons certainly showed.

Or . . . should that be “safari so good”, given that five of the eight Edinburgh forwards on the pitch at the end of a game won 16-13 were actually born and raised in four different 
African countries.

From out of Africa have come Dave Denton (born Marondera, Zimbabwe), Willem Nel (b Loeriesfontein, South Africa), Wicus Blaauw (b Windhoek, Namibia), Izak van der Westhuizen (b Kimberley, South Africa) and Roddy Grant (b Jwaneng, Botswana).

“Solid” would undoubtedly be the word to describe the way Edinburgh put together that last surge which disrupted the Dragons to the extent they had little option but to transgress – and it was not a one-off either.

Throughout proceedings, Edinburgh had maintained a vital edge, to the extent that Roddy Grant felt able to declare: “That was as good scrummaging as I can 
remember at Edinburgh.”

Considering back rower Grant has been part of the set-up since 2009, during which head coaches Andy Robinson and Michael Bradley have come and gone, it is a notable 
accolade so soon in an era where ex-Test hooker Stevie Scott is now in charge of set-pieces.

Grant added: “It was great coming into that last scrum not thinking or hoping we’d get a penalty, just knowing we’d get a penalty.

“Of course, it was an eight-man job, but the big boys of the front five and especially the front row did incredibly.”

Did the scrum have its genesis on the veldt?

“I’d be more inclined to put it down to African meat had Ross Ford [from Kelso] not been at the heart of the scrum – and there’s no question he can more than hold his own in any scrum!”

Of course, Denton is a Scotland regular through parentage and Grant, whose family have strong links to Galashiels, has already been a travelling reserve for the national side without yet making the breakthrough to cap honours.

On evidence shown since returning from a wrist injury which meant missing the final ten games of last season, that situation could still be rectified, although typically 26-year-old Grant is more inclined to put the emphasis on helping revive Edinburgh.

To that extent what was only a third win over Dragons in nine starts has boosted spirits ahead of Saturday’s trip to Ospreys, whose last outing produced a high-scoring draw at champions Leinster.

“It’s great to get a win especially in our first home game of the season,” said the man who laughingly admits he has sufficient Afrikaans to do a bit of interpreting when required. “I can pick up roughly what the African lads are saying.”

And he added: “We worked really hard getting things right and it was by no means a polished performance, but the important thing was to get a win and take another step forward.

“The second half was not great as we made a lot of errors, but we showed a lot of guts to win and pull it back. We now have a bit of momentum.”

There was some initial consternation in the stands at the death when touch judges appeared reluctant to signal Leonard’s winning kick from in front of the posts had gone over and coach Alan Solomons even revealed his heart was momentarily in his mouth until the flags went up.

However, Grant was among the first to react and he said: “I had a pretty good view of winning penalty. I knew it was over and that we had built on a decent second-half display at Munster the previous week.

“Given the pressure, it was a great kick by Harry. I have never been in the position to win a game with a kick myself, so I can only imagine how much it will help him.

“We tried to stick to systems and although we made a few errors including a couple of poor kicks on the whole Harry did control the game well at stand off.”

Grant’s African background also meant a greater insight into the qualities brought on board by new coach Solomons.

Although born in Botswana, Grant moved to Cape Town and on to school in Durban, always following the local rugby scene where Solomons was making his mark on the way to assisting the Springboks’ head coach, Nick Mallett.

“Growing up at school and playing age-group rugby I knew who Alan Solomons was, alright. When I heard he was coming to Edinburgh I was delighted because I knew his background and pedigree. I knew he’d be good for our club.

“What I’ve found in the short time he has been in charge is you know where you stand with him. He’s very black and white with a clear message coming through.”

One swallow and all that . . . but digging out narrow victories was not something Edinburgh had become renowned for. Is that about to change?

“The more you can do it in tight games the more it becomes habitual,” said Grant. “There again every game you need to win whether it is by a point or more and that is something we take forward.”