Edinburgh are back in South Africa to take on Sharks in the quarter final of the Challenge Cup hoping to book a place in the last four. 

And here, Kevin Millar previews the big game for Sean Everitt's side.

KO 12.30 at Kings Park
Saturday 13th April 2024

Live on TNT Sports 3

  • A lot has changed since Edinburgh’s most recent European quarter-final. Their opponents two years ago – Wasps – no longer exist for one thing. The capital club's lineup is significantly different from that match at Hive Stadium, with 14 changes to the 23 and WP Nel, Grant Gilchrist, Ben Vellacott and Mark Bennett the only returning starters.
  • Rather less has changed since Edinburgh’s last visit to play the Sharks – understandably given it was only two weeks ago! There are just two alterations to the visitors’ starting lineup with only a single switch from the home team originally named for the URC fixture (although Vincent Koch was a late withdrawal before kick-off).
  • Duhan van der Merwe and Ben Vellacott are tied as third top try scorers in the Challenge Cup with four each. Both men have crossed in each of their last three appearances in this competition.
  • This is the most experienced 23 named by Edinburgh during the current season – the oldest (average age 29.1) and the most previous appearances (1,774).
  • Ben Healy has played the full 80 minutes 16 times already this season, only being substituted once – for the last 12 minutes of the Challenge Cup pool encounter with Scarlets.
  • WP Nel starts for the tenth consecutive match. This is the first time he has done so for Edinburgh since 2015.


Scotland Rugby News: Head to Head:

Scotland Rugby News:

Edinburgh Introductions:

D’Arcy Rae will play his first game outside Scotland for Edinburgh. The former Glasgow prop's only previous involvement in an away fixture came at his old stomping ground, Scotstoun, back in December.

Matchday Milestones:

Edinburgh’s co-captain, Grant Gilchrist, will bring up a double century of appearances on Saturday.

The lock is one of just three players in the visitors’ lineup who have featured in a quarter-final victory for Edinburgh in any competition. He was a starter alongside Sean Cox in the second row for a famous Champions Cup win over Toulouse back in 2012.

WP Nel is currently on 49 tries scored during his professional career. Can the veteran prop bring up a half century before he retires at the end of the season?

  • Boland Cavaliers – 1
  • Free State Cheetahs – 12
  • Cheetahs – 9
  • Edinburgh – 24
  • Scotland – 3

European form:

Scotland Rugby News:

Edinburgh’s European Quarter-final Appearances:

2021/22 Challenge Cup:
Edinburgh 30 – 34 WASPS

2019/20 Challenge Cup:
BORDEAUX 23 – 14 Edinburgh

2018/19 Champions Cup:
Edinburgh 13 – 17 MUNSTER

2017/18 Challenge Cup:
Edinburgh 6 – 20 CARDIFF

2016/17 Challenge Cup:
Edinburgh 22 – 32 LA ROCHELLE

2014/15 Challenge Cup:
London Irish 18 – 23 EDINBURGH

2011/12 Champions Cup:
EDINBURGH 19 – 14 Toulouse

2003/04 Champions Cup:
TOULOUSE 36 – 10 Edinburgh

Track record…

…away from home against South African sides in all competitions

  • 2 wins
  • 8 losses

Previous match-up v Sharks in South Africa:

Significant stats:

39% territory for Edinburgh
The Sharks had a stranglehold on field position from early on and almost throughout the entirety of the game.

The visitors couldn’t seem to find a way to consistently progress up the pitch into less risky areas, with kicks not gaining enough distance and handling errors when they tried to play their way out of trouble.

The boot of Ben Healy will be key, but he needs support from the rest of the backline to allow Edinburgh to see more of the game in the home side’s half this time round.

71% scrum success for Edinburgh
It was a long hard shift for the capital club’s all international tight five, coming up against a unit featuring a trio of World Cup winners – and it will be a quartet of RWC champions this time round.

There’s no quick fix here but reducing the number of scrums would be beneficial from the visitors’ perspective. That means cutting down their own handling / technical errors and looking to play off advantage any time the Sharks make a mistake rather than slowing down and settling for a scrum.

92% tackle completion for Edinburgh
Two weeks ago, the visitors really dug in in defence and rarely made it easy for their hosts.

That kind of effort will almost certainly be required again but if the volume of tackles attempted can be reduced – through better control in attack – so will some of the pressure. That should lead to more opportunities to be aggressive in defence rather than scrambling or being passive.

Changes from URC Round 12:

Edinburgh have made seven changes (two in the starting lineup and five on the bench) from their defeat to Sharks a fortnight ago:

  • 13/12 – Bennett for Dean with Currie moving to 12
  • 5/4 – Gilchrist for Hodgson with Skinner moving to 4
  • 18 – Rae for Sebastian
  • 19 – Hodgson for Sykes
  • 20 – Crosbie for Boyle
  • 21 – Price for Shiel
  • 23/22 – Dean for Scott

The home side have made four alterations of their own (two in the starting lineup and two on the bench) from that previous victory over Edinburgh:

  • 12 – Hooker for Venter
  • 3 – Koch for Jacobs
  • 18 – Jacobs for Mona
  • 21 – Williams for Wright


Referee: Matthew Carley (RFU)
AR1: Anthony Woodthorpe (RFU)
AR2: Adam Leal (RFU)
TMO: Ian Tempest (RFU)

Mr Carley’s regular season record for 2023/24:

  • Matches – 9
  • Average penalty count – 19.0 per game
  • Home side penalties conceded percentage – 46.2%
  • Average card count – 1.1 per game
  • Penalties per card – 17.1

Despite being a regular for Glasgow Warriors’ fixtures (six games in the last seven seasons) Mr Carley’s only previous experience with Scotland’s other club came nearly a decade ago when he took charge of Edinburgh’s Challenge Cup clash with Lyon at Murrayfield in October 2014.

The English official has never previously refereed the Sharks, although his AR1, Anthony Woodthorpe, took charge of the South African side’s big win over Zebre six days ago so should have plenty of analysis to provide his colleague.

Mr Carley’s last outing was in Cape Town for the Stormers’ Champions Cup Round of 16 match. It seems safe to assume the whistler (as well as the rest of his team) has spent the week in South Africa and will be well prepared for the conditions.

Additional ref stats from: https://www.cardiffrfcfans.com/analysis/referee_heads.php?countryID=2