Challenge Cup: Sean Everitt says Edinburgh have nothing to fear in Sharks rematch

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Sean Everett says Edinburgh will not prioritise the URC ahead of the Challenge Cup. Image: © Craig Watson -
Sean Everett says Edinburgh will not prioritise the URC ahead of the Challenge Cup. Image: © Craig Watson -

ONE swallow does not make a summer, but Sean Everitt says he is confident that Saturday evening’s Challenge Cup round of 16 home win over Bayonne can be a turning point for his team, after a tricky spell in which they have struggled to click as an attacking force and looked low on confidence.

With Sharks dismantling Zebre 47-3 on their side of the draw this [Sunday] afternoon, Edinburgh will now head back to Durban on Tuesday night – less than a fortnight after returning from the same South African city nursing the scars of a 23-13 loss to the Sharks – for a quarter-final clash on Saturday lunchtime (12.30pm kick-off) which will be a real test of whether progress has been made.

Having managed only four victories from 17 matches in all competitions before this weekend, the Sharks have had a fairly uninspiring season so far – certainly not producing the level of rugby you expect from a squad which is chockablock with Springbok World Cup winners – but their recent form has suggested they may finish the season in more conniving fashion than they started it. They are now on a three match winning streak (having beaten Ulster and Edinburgh in the URC, as well as Zebre in the Challenge Cup, all at home, since mid March).

Challenge Cup: Edinburgh v Bayonne: hosts book last eight spot

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“Bayonne made 13 changes to the team that played last Sunday night [versus Toulon] but it was a very similar team to the one that beat Exeter and drew with Munster [in the pool stage of the Champion s Cup] so we can’t underestimate the magnitude of this win, even though it’s at home,” claimed Everitt on Saturday evening, which is bit of stretch given that only eight of the 23 strong match-day squad from the Munster game were involved on Saturday night, and 13 out of 23 from the Exeter game.

“We had some hard conversations on Monday and we spoke about individual preparation and we spoke about team preparation,” the Edinburgh coach added. “We get our team preparation right most weeks and it’s the individual errors that creep in which let us down.

“That was a focus for us, that individuals need to switch on mentally during the week and understand their roles and carry that through into the team situation, and I thought they did much better with regards to that [against Bayonne] and it just makes life a lot easier.”

Edinburgh will now fly out to South Africa on Tuesday night, arrive in Durban on Wednesday morning, and play the Sharks on Saturday lunchtime.

Everitt insists that the capital team will attack the challenge front-on, despite it being another draining cross-continent undertaking less than a fortnight after the last one, which comes right in the middle of their fight to make the URC play-offs.

Recent defeats have seen Edinburgh drop to ninth in the table (they need to finish eighth with seven teams separated by just five league points between fifth and 11th in the current URC seedings). They play Scarlets at home in the URC on the Saturday after they get back from Durban (20th April), then Cardiff away seven days later (27th April), before hopefully facing a Challenge Cup semi-final the weekend after that (3rd-5th May), immediately followed by back-to-back home URC games against Zebre (10th May) and Munster (17th May)..

“I think the way we managed our players when we were over in South Africa [for the two URC games against Sharks and the Stormers a week earlier] will help us,” said Everitt. “Grant Gilchrist, Luke Crosbie and Ali Price didn’t travel. There was a rotational strategy that we put in place, so some internationals weren’t available but everyone of the 31 players who travelled got an opportunity over there.

“We’ll be staying in the same hotel, training on the same training field so there will be familiarity with how the week looks.

“By leaving on Tuesday night we will be able to prepare on Monday and Tuesday like we normally do. Wednesday will be a rest day, as it would be at home, and then we will be into our final training session on Thursday, so nothing really changes from that point of view … we’ve just got to toughen up on the flight to Durban!”

“Like we said at the start of the season, the guys want to win some silverware and I’m sure they’ll be happy to give their all to beat the Sharks next week.”

Meanwhile, Everitt revealed that Argentinean full-back Emiliano Boffelli is in line for an earlier return from his back injury than was feared.

“Boff had a small procedure [an injection] on Friday and it shouldn’t keep him out too long so that’s a positive for us,” he said “It will be weeks but we’ll have to see how quickly he responds. He had the same procedure last year and responded pretty quickly to it so we are hoping for the same outcome.”

Challenge Cup: Edinburgh v Bayonne: hosts book last eight spot

About David Barnes 3956 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. This will be very tough. The team made hard work of Bayonne in the first half – the attack still does not work and the Lions front 5 are immense. I’d like to see us win, but part of me says save the top players for the URC run-in, I’d rather be in the Champions cup next year. This is going to be very hard and very very physical.

  2. Sharks B team beat Zebre with one hand behind their back; no Eben E or big guns. It will be a hard, very hard, game to win, especially on the back of just being there, flying home and flying straight back. Will need A game for 80 minutes. Here’s hoping…..

    • Please get your facts straight when you make statements about it being a Sharks B team. Etzebeth got injured previous week but it had all the other big guns – Fassi, Am, Mapimpi, Hendrikse, Nche, Mbonambi, Koch, Buthelezi, Tshituka – and you can be sure they will all play this weekend. Thats an all Boks front row with Koch having recently joined them. It will need a minor miracle to get past that lot but maybe were due one.

  3. I read somewhere that the players were a bit taken aback by the positive attacking approach which Bayonne started with. They are obviously not Scottish as Scottish teams regularly start poorly and find themselves behind e.g. the Sharks game. Is it in the DNA or coaching/mental attitude at fault ?

    Surely the team will be on their toes from the start of the next Sharks game.

  4. Beating Bayonne at home is better than not beating Bayonne at home. But the Sharks v Edinburgh game was low on skill from both sides and the Saffers were well on top without hitting top gear. Edinburgh didn’t look motivated against them and made countless errors, while Healy’s effort to prevent Am’s try was half-hearted to non-existent – which summed up the performance perfectly. Following on from their capitulation at the DHL it was very poor, busting them from top four to ninth – just like that.

    Time to step it up now and show an improvement, both in this and the URC if top-tier European rugby is to return to the capital next year. The entire season is on a knife-edge and could go either way. Everitt will be judged on the outcome and needs to motivate his seriously talented team to get it to achieve its potential. Sounds like deja vu all over again!

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