CHRIS DEAN will become the 34th player to represent Edinburgh on Saturday night on 100 or more occasions, but there will be no reason for celebration unless he and his team can demand a surprise scalp against the Sale Sharks that they need to keep alive their bid for the European Champions Cup.
Even if the Capitals pick up bonus points in all three of their remaining pool games, it is still contingent on other results to progress to the last eight. The bigger problem, however, is that a victory against the Sharks will give the team some much-needed positive momentum to take on the 1872 Cup double-header against Glasgow at the end of the month after a poor start to the season.
It will not be easy to play away in the English Premiership against a side currently fourth, but Dean says Edinburgh is determined to show that the bold statistic hanging over their heads – two wins from eight games played so far in the 2020-21 season – does not accurately reflect what the team of Richard Cockerill is all about.
He said, “A team that doesn’t have confidence is always going to have a hard time going into a game,” You have to trust in yourself and the hard work that you have put in and that the systems that you have put in place will work during the day.
Since a lot of our games have been so similar, we know it works. Just think of last weekend against the top team in France, La Rochelle, when we had a chance to win just before the end.
“In previous years we’ve started better and put ourselves in better situations, so we’re probably a little disappointed with the start to this season – but there’s still a lot of rugby to be played, so we’ll certainly be looking to reboot our season this weekend.”
In several ways, in recent months, Edinburgh has been the victim of its own success, with more than a dozen main players called for international duty during the fall test window, but Dean argues that the recent losing streak of the team has not fundamentally weakened morale, adding that the long-term gains easily outweigh the short-term pain.
“It’s difficult,” he reflected. You build a club atmosphere and perform at a level that inspires players to excel, but lately we have 14 players traveling with the national team, including players like Jaco van der Walt and Duhan van der Merwe, who have been with us for the past three years and have been sorely missed this year.
The time we just had, therefore, is not representative of the team that we will be. We haven’t played as well as we should have, but we had to get used to a lot of things, and with the circumstances surrounding Covid and players not being released, there were a lot of adjustments.
That has led us to offer a chance to younger players, which in the future will only benefit us. Introducing players like Jack Blain, who played very well in the four games he’s had, or Nathan Chamberlain, who was thrown in at the deep end, we’re only going to benefit from those guys jumping into the guys’ positions above them.
“I think you have to look at the positives in this situation, and having the young players at this level can only benefit them in the future and us as a club.”
Dean believes we got our first glimpse of the Edinburgh squad in the narrow defeat of La Rochelle last week and feels that the internationals have now had another seven days to integrate back into the club climate.
And he adds that because of the fallout from Covid, which is likely to be a big problem for head coach Richard Cockerill as he seeks to re-sign the several leading players whose contracts expire at the end of the season, the continuing confusion regarding the financial stability of the Scottish Rugby Union is not a distraction.
“Our mindset is very focused on rugby, especially over the next week as we prepare for the start of the season,” he said. “From week to week, the goal and mindset changes, and I’m sure the guys whose contracts expire at the end of the season have other things on their minds from time to time, but it’s certainly not a topic of conversation that comes up in the team.”