HAMISH WATSON will make his return from injury for Edinburgh against the Sharks tomorrow, increasing the probability that he will be able to play for Scotland against England in eight days’ time. The openside flanker has been out of action since sustaining a head injury in the Autumn Nations Series match against New Zealand in November.
Head coach Mike Blair has made eight changes in all – seven in the pack – from the team that beat Saracens in last weekend’s final Champions Cup pool game. No 8 Bill Mata is the only forward to retain his place, while fit-again winger Wes Goosen is the only newcomer to the back division. Jack Blain moves from the right wing to the left to accommodate him. Recently re-signed Murray McCallum comes in at tighthead prop.
“First and foremost, we’re absolutely delighted to see Hamish back fit,” Blair said. “He’s one of our most experienced players and someone who has the ability to influence a match with a game-changing piece of skill, turnover or destructive carry. His timely return is a real boost for both us and Scotland.
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“We were obviously really pleased with the performance against Saracens last weekend. It was probably our most physically dominant display of the season so far, which was undoubtedly fuelled by a passionate home support at DAM Health Stadium.
“We’re really looking forward to getting back out there and representing our fans once again tomorrow night but we’re under no illusions about the side we’re coming up against. Cell C Sharks are one of the most dangerous teams in the league – they possess a hugely physical pack with plenty of size across the board.
“This is a massive league game for both clubs. We need to replicate last week’s efforts while once again fronting up physically. The Edinburgh supporters will also have a huge role to play, we’ll need their backing from first whistle to last to really drive us forward.”
Watson takes over in his usual No 7 jersey from Luke Crosbie, who is one of eight players listed as absent because of their attendance at this week’s Scotland cap. The others are Grant Gilchrist, Blair Kinghorn, Duhan van der Merwe, WP Nel, Jamie Ritchie, Pierre Schoeman and Sam Skinner.
Eight others are unavailable, mainly because of injury: Nick Auterac, Emiliano Boffelli, Matt Currie, Chris Dean, Darcy Graham, Stuart McInally, Harry Paterson, Angus Williams.
The Sharks have rested some of their best-known players, including Springboks Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Lukhanyo Am. But, with Ox Nche leading the way int eh front row, they can still be expected to constitute a formidable physical challenge.
Edinburgh (v Sharks at the DAM Health Stadium, Saturday 5.15pm): H Immelman; W Goosen, M Bennett, J Lang, J Blain; C Savala, B Vellacott; B Venter, A McBurney, M McCallum, M Sykes, G Young, N Haining, H Watson, V Mata. Substitutes: D Cherry, L de Bruin, L Atalifo, J Hodgson, B Muncaster, C Shiel, J van der Walt, C Hutchison.
Sharks: A Fassi; M Potgieter, F Venter, B Tapuai, T Abrahams; C Bosch, G Williams; O Nche, K van Vuuren, T du Toit, H Andrews, G Grobler, J Venter, H Venter, P Buthelezi (captain). Substitutes: D Jooste, N Mchunu, C Sadie, R Hugo, S Notshe, C Wright, L Cronje, Y Penxe.
Referee: James Doleman (New Zealand).
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Crosbie I’d a guy who plays better the fitter he gets….he could’ve had the last 30mins tomorrow.
Does his inclusion mean Dempsey not in starting 15 v England?
Hmm yes, tight 5 looks a bit weak, breakaways look good, backs look good. Hopefully the pack can front up and keep us in the game.
Be interesting to see who kicks and what difference a rested Hamish will make?
A lot of change in the forwards with Sharks fielding a formidable front row. Happily they are resting some of their front line names, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Jaden Hendrikse and Lukhanyo Am.
It’ll be a big ask but a win is possible if we can get a fair share of the ball.
Perhaps a bit short of reliable kicking options and bit short of pace on the bench if we have to chase the game late on. But maybe the backs can spring a few tricks and get us the win.
Hopefully this means Pyrgos is getting called up straight into the Scotland starting 15.
In your dreams, Stuart!