Try, try again Tim Visser believes that upcoming home and away fixtures with Gloucester hold the key to Edinburgh Rugby qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Heineken European Cup.
When the dust settled on weekend action each of the four Group Six rivals had one win from their opening two games.
And, given Edinburgh’s stuttering start to the Rabo Direct Pro 12 campaign as they attempted to come to terms with fresh systems put in place by new coach Alan Solomons, winger Visser – a try scorer in each of the outings so far at home to Munster and away to Perpignan – is happy with his team’s lot.
“A wide open group at this stage is probably something I’d have taken at the start,” he said.
“That’s especially the case as I feel the moment of us getting into form is close now.
“Personally, I feel I am getting back to form, too, starting to enjoy matches,” said Visser.
Euro action takes a break until after two rounds of league fixtures which precede the Autumn Tests. Then, Edinburgh restart with a home game against Gloucester on December 8, with the return taking place at Kingsholm a week later.
“Gloucester home and away will be big for us, especially at home. We showed two years ago that winning at home and picking up a win on the road puts you very close to being in the quarter-finals,” added Visser.
With Perpignan due at Murrayfield before the exercise concludes with a visit to Munster, the message is that Edinburgh need to reel off a series of wins before heading across the Irish Sea and by then Visser could be the club’s all-time top try scorer at Heineken Cup level.
Those strikes in successive matches have put him on eight, level with Hugo Southwell (now at Wasps) and one behind Ben Cairns and Chris Paterson.
“It’s credit to Ben that he is up there despite having had quite a few injuries, but that doesn’t stop me telling him to look over his shoulder as I am out to overtake him,” joked Visser.
First, though, come Treviso at home in the league this Friday – and speaking at the launch of a scheme allowing fans to buy one ticket and get free admission to the home clash with Connacht on November 29, Visser said: “This is an ideal time to play Treviso because our tactical game is moving in the right direction and our defence is much better.
“If we starve them of ball and make them kick we can play our own game, bearing in mind that a lot of tries nowadays come from counter attack.
“Hopefully, we can kick-start our season having had it hard when we completed pre-season then almost had to do it again so as to get used to the way Alan Solomons wants us to play.
“It took a while, but now we see it works we have full faith; I think I can speak for all the players on this.
“It might be hard for supporters to accept from the outside looking in. But from the inside looking out, finally we are going in right direction.”
“The Rabo has always been our bread and butter. Having got to the point where we all understand how Alan wants us to play, the next step is to take it into to the Rabo and do it for an entire game.
“The emphasis so far has been on realising how pro rugby is moving closer to Test rugby and little mistakes are going to be costly.
“Tiny gaps – and we are talking two or three metres – will be enough to put a winger through. Apart from bringing a harder edge, the man thing Alan has brought is the need to concentrate on those things and that can help us climb the table.”
According to Visser, there was plenty of evidence in Perpignan that fortunes were on the turn, especially when Edinburgh went in for the interval 7-3 in front before losing 14-31.
“The Perpignan game showed the clear contrast between what happens if we do it right and if we don’t.
“In the second half we had some system errors and let them score length of the field tries. In the first half we were in their territory a lot more than they were in ours, and we denied them the ball for long periods, causing the home crowd to start to get agitated.
“However, you could still clearly see how far our defensive game has come, despite the territorial advantages early on. To camp out on our own try line and not let them get away with any more than three points is not something we have been able to do in the past.
“We have always been talking about creating an invisible shield in our own half and things worked well.
“There is an added challenge this weekend, though, in that it is a short turnaround between a Sunday and a Friday game.
“What has helped was being able to come straight back from the south of France on a charter plane, which saved us an entire day in which to plan and prepare.”
As Visser says, it is the little things, like a streamlined travel plan, that can go towards Edinburgh moving off the bottom of the league, with three of the next four matches against teams immediately above them in the table.