BLAIR Kinghorn returns from a month out with a wrist injury to take his place on the wing for Edinburgh tomorrow night, while stand-off Charlie Savala will make his debut in the match against Cardiff Blues.
Savala had been due to be on the bench for the match at the Arms Park, but Nathan Chamberlain failed a fitness test earlier today on the ankle injury he sustained in last week’s win over Connacht. Edinburgh now have to wait and see if Jaco van der Walt is freed by Scotland. If not, it is likely that Kinghorn, who replaces Jack Blain, would provide back-up for Savala and that a back-three player would be named in the TBC slot on the bench.
With two games to go in the PRO14 after this one, Edinburgh still have an outside chance of finishing third, but they may have to win each one with bonus points to finish ahead of Scarlets. The Blues, too, still have a lot to play for in this, their final game: if they beat Richard Cockerill’s side and Scarlets lose to Connacht, also tomorrow, that could well be enough for them to claim third spot and the Champions Cup place that goes with it.
Cockerill has made four changes in all to his team from last week’s win in Connacht. In addition to Kinghorn and Savala, Mesu Kunavula takes over from Ally Miller in the back row, and Boan Venter, who has made two appearances off the bench so far, is at loosehead in place of the injured Pierre Schoeman.
With Schoeman’s knee injury expected to keep him out for up to six weeks, Venter is set to go on an earlier than expected run of games in the front row, but has already shown himself capable of performing well in the loose as well as at the set piece. “It’s nice being in the mix for games so early on after coming here,” said the South African, who signed last month. “I didn’t expect that at all, but I’d rather have it that way than later.
“I really feel sorry for Pierre as he’s a dear friend of mine. It’s not nice to have someone so close to you getting an injury. But I’m really looking forward to the opportunity and getting a lot of gametime. I’m really grateful for that.”
Willem Nel, Duhan van der Merwe and Jaco van der Walt have all taken the path of moving from South Africa to Edinburgh then playing for Scotland once they have been here for three years, and Schoeman is set to follow. But the residence qualification has now been changed to five years, and Venter thinks that is too far in the future to waste time thinking about now.
“I have thought about it, but I’m not someone who looks too far ahead. It’s not something that I’m ruling out but there’s still a lot of water that has to run to the ocean before any such decisions can be made.”
Eleven players are absent on Scotland duty, while nine are out injured. The Test absentees are: Simon Berghan, David Cherry, Grant Gilchrist, Darcy Graham, Nick Haining, Willem Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Rory Sutherland, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt and Hamish Watson. In addition to Schoeman, the injury list consists of Lewis Carmichael, Jamie Farndale, Dan Gamble, Sam Grahamslaw, Stuart McInally, Fraser McKenzie, Dan Nutton and Ben Toolis.
Edinburgh (v Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park, tomorrow 8pm): D Hoyland (captain); B Kinghorn, J Johnstone, G Taylor, E Sau; C Savala, C Shiel; B Venter, M Willemse, L Atalifo, M Bradbury, A Davidson, M Kunavula, L Crosbie, V Mata. Substitutes: S Kitchen, M McCallum, A Williams, J Hodgson, A Miller, H Pyrgos, TBC, M Bennett.
Cardiff Blues: M Morgan; J Harries, R Lee-Lo, B Thomas, A Summerhill; J Evans, L Williams; R Gill, L Belcher, D Arhip, S Davies, R Thornton, O Robinson, E Jenkins, J Turnbull (captain). Substitutes: K Dacey, R Carré, D Lewis, J Ratti, A Lawrence, L Jones, M Llewellyn, H Amos.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).