PIERRE Schoeman is convinced that Edinburgh will be able to give a good account of themselves against Saracens on Saturday even though they will be without key forward Bill Mata.
The capital club confirmed yesterday that both No 8 Mata and winger Damien Hoyland “will be out for a considerable period of time” as a result of the knee injuries they sustained in last week’s win over Benetton. The loss of Mata in particular is undeniably a serious blow given his ability to take the game to the opposition up front, and his ball-carrying adventurousness would almost certainly have been a key element of head coach Mike Blair’s game plan for the Challenge Cup tie at the weekend.
However, having said that, the increasing depth of the Edinburgh squad has been obvious this season, especially in the back row, where Magnus Bradbury has been in outstanding form over recent games. And, although in the past both Edinburgh and the Warriors have struggled to match Saracens’ physicality when drawn against them in Europe, Schoeman for one is sure that his team can be equal to the task that awaits them.
“We feel very confident,” the loosehead prop said. “It’s about the mentality in that 80 minutes. Sometimes you prep so well and then it’s a bad day at the office, or vice versa.
“But yeah, I’m feeling very confident. So it’s exciting going down there.”
An away game against the three-time European champions is the toughest possible start for Edinburgh to their Challenge Cup campaign, but Schoeman suggested that his side would rather be confronted with such a demanding task than be given an easier draw against less illustrious opponents. “To be fair, it’s the games you want to play,” the Scotland international said. “I’m not saying there’s easy games, I’m just saying it’s nice to play in the big matches.
“The set-piece battles, the physicality is a bit more up there, it’s more of a challenge, everyone wants to win. And it’s nice to play a Premier side – we don’t get that opportunity much, and when it comes it’s nice to prep well and do good against them.”
The robust physicality of Schoeman himself is one reason why Edinburgh will head south tomorrow with a fair degree of confidence. They will not be favourites to beat Saracens, but even without Mata they can be expected to make a decent fight of the match.