Attitude is everything for new coach as Edinburgh plot upsets in South Africa

Edinburgh’s new defence coach Michael Todd is expecting a hugely physical challenge in South Africa but believes the correct attitude can go a long way to equalising any advantages the home teams might have.

Edinburgh's new defence coach Michael Todd joined from Queensland Reds. (Photo by Glenn Hunt/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)
Edinburgh's new defence coach Michael Todd joined from Queensland Reds. (Photo by Glenn Hunt/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

The capital side open their mini-tour against the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, the first time Edinburgh will have played at the venerable Pretoria venue. They then head to Cape Town to take on DHL Stormers on October 1 in a repeat of last season’s URC quarter-final which the hosts won 28-17.

Todd, who left Queensland Reds to take up his post in Edinburgh in the summer, was impressed by his new club’s victory over Dragons in their opening match of the league season but knows rounds two and three will be far tougher.

“I think it was a solid start,” said Tod, who was hired to replace Calum MacRae when the latter moved to Benetton. “I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest - I hadn’t seen some of the guys play live since I’ve arrived. In the two pre-season games I started building and chipping away at certain things, and in each game new players came back, so I’m starting to see what it looks like. It was a solid start overall, I’d say.”

Edinburgh players, led by Marshall Sykes, enjoy the win over Dragons. Tougher tests lie ahead. (Photo by Ross Parker / SNS Group)

The caveat, of course, is that the Dragons are unlikely to be challenging at the top of the table whereas the Bulls and Stormers almost certainly will. Only Zebre finished below the Welsh team last season, with the Gwent side winning just two of 18 URC games.

By contrast, the Bulls and Stormers made it all the way to the final and Todd is under no illusions about where Edinburgh need to step up at Loftus Versfeld.

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“I think the contact area has to improve massively,” he said. “It’s going to be a very physical game, obviously we probably can’t match their size kg for kg, but technically we need to be better and we can match them in that area. We’ll put our best foot forward.

“The conditions are probably a bit warmer than we’re used to at this time of the year, so that’ll add to it. But the physical side of things, man to man, will be the biggest challenge.”

Todd likes what he’s seen so far of the Edinburgh players. He describes them as humble and hard working and says their values align with his own, important considerations when taking on South African teams whose reputation for fearsome forward power precedes them.

“You can be the biggest team and not pitch up on the day and the smaller, agile team could take you for a run, so I definitely think attitude is everything,” said Todd. “At this level you’ve got to be up for it every week, you’ve got to prepare well and look after yourself well just to be able to put out your best performance. It’s small margins.”

Edinburgh, who have taken a 34-man squad to South Africa, announced yesterday that their loosehead prop Jamie Jack and academy hooker Patrick Harrison have both moved to London Irish on short-term loan deals. They are joined at the Premiership club by Logan Trotter, the former Stirling County back-three player who was training with Glasgow Warriors at the start of the season.

Edinburgh Rugby squad for South Africa

Forwards: Lee-Roy Atalifo, Nick Auterac, Dave Cherry, Luke Crosbie, Luan de Bruin, Grant Gilchrist (cc), Nick Haining, Viliame Mata, Adam McBurney, Stuart McInally, WP Nel, Pierce Phillips, Jamie Ritchie (cc), Pierre Schoeman, Sam Skinner, Marshall Sykes, Boan Venter, Hamish Watson, Glen Young.

Backs: Mark Bennett, Jack Blain, Matt Currie, Chris Dean, Darcy Graham, Damien Hoyland, Henry Immelman, Blair Kinghorn, James Lang, Harry Paterson, Henry Pyrgos, Charlie Savala, Charlie Shiel, Jaco van der Walt, Ben Vellacott.

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