RICHARD COCKERILL would not confirm or deny South Africa’s latest news that Loose Head prop Boan Venter is heading to Edinburgh in February on a two-and-a-half-year contract, or rumors from England linking Harlequins and Scotland utility back James Lang with next season’s transfer to the Scottish capital.
However, the head coach was concise when asked about the rumors surrounding the transfer of Rory Sutherland to Worcester Warriors. “Rory has 18 months left on his contract, so there’s nothing to it,” he explained.
Speculation about future transfers to Edinburgh has grown exponentially in recent weeks, with many leading players out of contract at the end of the season, but Cockerill is clearly keen to keep it in-house before a staff change is finalized.
We’re talking to a number of players about next season at the moment, so there’s nothing to say on that yet,”We’re talking to a number of players at the moment about next season, so there’s nothing to report on that yet,”
“In defense we need a little bit more reinforcement and a little bit more quality, so we’re looking at that. The ten-man position is one of the positions we are looking at, or players who can play in that position and others. With the limited financial resources we have, we’re trying to do the best we can with what we have.”
Cockerill confirmed that talks had taken place with Venter, but refused to expand on the tale of last weekend.
The 23-year-old will be an equal replacement for Scottish international Jamie Bhatti, who left the club just before Christmas to join Bath for the remainder of the season on a short-term contract after being disappointed by a lack of playing time after arriving in the summer of 2019 at Glasgow Warriors.
“Jamie has moved on and if there is an opportunity to bring in a player to strengthen our stocks, we will look at it,” the coach said. Boan is one of the few that we’ve been looking at and talking to.
“Obviously both Rory Sutherland and Pierre Schoeman – who will become a Scotland international next summer – will be away with Scotland for large parts of the season, so that’s a position we want to strengthen.”
Cockerill denied that, at the cost of cultivating indigenous talent, Edinburgh is concerned with attracting cheap, ready-made players from abroad – but added that the existing system lacks options that it can draw on without sacrificing competitiveness.
In South Africa, seven current senior squad members were born, and 47 percent of the 49 players identified on the Edinburgh website were born outside Scotland.
Cockerill said, “It’s just about finding the balance in our squad for us. “We’ll have two looseheads traveling with Scotland, a hooker, two tightheads, two locks, our whole back row, and so on, going forward.
“You have to prepare with some confidence that you’re going to have some players who are going to play for you. We’re dealing with the worst-case scenario and the depth of the all-Scottish eligible guys is not as deep as we’d all like it to be.
“We also have a very large contingent of SQ players if you look at the positions where we have non-SQ [Scottish Qualified] players,” he said. “For example, at the loosehead position, we have Sam Grahamslaw, Rory Sutherland and Pierre, who will soon be a Scot. If 75% of our looseheads are Scottish, that’s a pretty decent ratio, isn’t that correct?
That’s what we have at all positions. We have SQ players there if we have a foreign player. We’re not replacing Scottish-qualified players, we’re supplementing them.
The fact that Schoeman is not eligible until he has completed his three-year residency requirement contradicts the claim somewhat, but his top priority from Cockerill’s point of view is to put a team on the pitch as good as possible, and he has to do deals anywhere he can get them with Covid’s financial pressures mounting.
“We have to find the money, so if players leave and there’s money left over, we can use that to strengthen if we need to,” he explained.
“As long as they don’t cost more than the player we got rid of, we can sign two players. The finances haven’t changed — Covid-1, I’m not sure.