Edinburgh Rugby Roundup: Cockerill and Willemse

Edinburgh Rugby opened their Pro14 season with a 50-15 win over Zebre at BT Murrayfield this past Saturday. Yesterday, head coach Richard Cockerill and debutant Mike Willemse spoke to the media about injury updates, opening weekend games and new opportunities playing for Edinburgh.

Cockerill was positive in his analysis of his side’s opening weekend in the Pro14. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby)

Injury update

During the Zebre game on Saturday, hooker Dave Cherry was removed from the field with an apparent arm injury. Cockerill confirmed today that Cherry will face some time out from the game due to the niggle picked up.

“He’s got an injury to his AC joint, so he won’t be fit for the weekend,” he explained. “Hopefully we’ll get it scanned in the next couple of days once the swelling’s gone down, see where it is, but it’s probably a four- to six-week injury, I’d have thought.”

And so, it will be interesting to see which of his three remaining hookers – Mike Willemse, Cammy Fenton and Ewan Ashman – Cockerill tips for the starting spot in the meantime.

Opening weekend fixtures

Cockerill was impressed with his side’s performance in the opening fixture, saying: “It was a good result for us at the weekend when historically those types of games have been very difficult for us to put teams away. So let’s hope it’s a good sign for us.”

As the action commenced at Murrayfield, a number of other teams were undertaking their first match of the season as well. Asked for his opinion of other openers, such as Glasgow Warriors against the Toyota Cheetahs in South Africa, Cockerill explained none of the match results were of any real surprise to him.

He began: “It’s always a difficult one, Glasgow going to South Africa with Cheetahs having played Currie Cup and done very well – it was always going to be a tough outing. And I think pretty much all the other teams went to form, really. I thought Leinster had a good win in Treviso, both sides missing a lot of players a bit like ourselves.

“It’s early days. It’s going to be a very odd season, isn’t it, because of what’s going on. Cardiff had a good win, Connacht would have probably fancied their chances at Scarlets with so many [internationals] missing and them only missing two or three.

“It’s always going to be a slightly subdued start because of the World Cup and attention being elsewhere,” he concluded.

Willemse (centre) is looking to utilise every opportunity playing at Edinburgh provides him with. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby)

Edinburgh debut for Willemse

It doesn’t happen often, so when it does, it is most certainly sweet – a win on debut for your new club. New Edinburgh hooker Mike Willemse experienced just that when he came off the bench against Zebre on Saturday.

“It was awesome,” he declared yesterday afternoon. “I mean, it was really nice to get a win. I think the guys couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season. We’ve worked really hard, so it’s just good to be able to get out there and even better to get that sort of win against a side that have really proved themselves in the last two years.”

Asked if the fact that Edinburgh’s tireless work to develop themselves since Richard Cockerill’s arrival at the helm had anything to do with his agreement to sign for the club, Willemse explained: “I was always eager to get over this side and grow my game as a whole. So when Cockers gave me the call, having played the game in my position, I thought it would help me quite a bit in developing as a hooker.

“You could clearly see the journey the team’s been on over the last two years and I was quite eager to get in to that sort of set up. I’m just really stoked to be here now and I’ve already learned so much, so hopefully I can contribute going forward.”

South African involvement with the club

Of course, it will have been a welcome sight for Willemse to enter into the Edinburgh set up knowing that fellow southern hemisphere players had already made the club home: “Yeah, definitely,” the forward admitted.

“I think there’s about eight or nine of us South African’s here now so it’s actually made it very easy. And also, just being able to integrate into the Scottish guys set ups – we really are a tight group of guys as a squad.”

He concluded: “But yeah, it does help having Pierre [Schoeman] and them over this side. I’ve played against him quite a few times, played with Jaco [Van Der Walt] a couple times and I played with Groomy [Nic Groom] quite a bit as well back in Capetown – so it’s actually worked out quite nicely.”

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