Two new starters feature for Edinburgh this weekend in the (considerably different) shapes of Darcy Graham and Rory Sutherland, and there’s a bit of a shuffle in the midfield to try and bring some solidity in defence and a few more ideas in attack; despite the bonus point tries, Edinburgh could easily have lost to a Benetton team that cut the wide defence open a bit too smoothly for our liking. While the pack is settled, Cockerill continues to hunt for the right blend and this week Dougie Fife and Matt Scott are rested which perhaps suggests this fixture isn’t top of the priority list going into an all-important Heineken Cup debut of sorts, certainly for this incarnation of Edinburgh.
Up front it’s the usual hefty pack filled with internationals, and dual back rows on the bench this week in the shape of Luke Hamilton and Jamie Ritchie. Who goes into the second row out of this lot?
At home, with a strong pack out, Edinburgh should have enough but the Cheetahs can really play if they put their mind to it. With the Italian teams now putting in far more consistent performances it would be easy to write the South African teams off as the away-from-home underachievers du jour but after recent performances, Edinburgh don’t want to be relying on luck to scrape them over the finish line this time.
Edinburgh Rugby: Blair Kinghorn, Darcy Graham, James Johnstone, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe, Simon Hickey, Henry Pyrgos, Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally, Willem Nel, Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata. Replacements: Ross Ford, Murray McCallum, Simon Berghan, Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Sean Kennedy, Jaco van der Walt, Chris Dean.
Toyota Cheetahs: Louis Fouche, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nico Lee, Rabs Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Tian Meyer, Ox Nche, Jacques du Toit, Aranos Coetzee, Justin Basson, JP du Preez, Niell Jordaan, Junior Pokomela, Steph Malan. Replacements: Joseph Dweba, Charles Marais, Gunther Janse van Vuuren, Walt Steenkamp, Daniel Maartens, Abongile Nonkontwana, Shaun Venter, Ali Mgijima.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, kick-off 7.35pm, live on FreeSports
Over in the West, Dave Rennie continues with the Jones/Dunbar centre pairing that seemed to click against the Dragons, and Adam Hastings at 10 following a stat-topping (he now leads the league for defenders beaten) Round 5.
He’s handed starts to Adam Nicol at tighthead and Andrew Davidson at lock, even as news emerges of a global search for a replacement prop, and big Brian Alainu’uese being spotted at Toulon. If these younger lads who he has currently can’t get it done, he might have to bring the famed Pen back into action and sign a few mid-season contracts to beef up the depth. Nicol was an impressive figure at U20s level and now would be an ideal time for him to kick on.
This game could also give us a chance to see new signing David Tameilau in PRO14 action off the bench, with a few of the top internationals (and Calum Gibbins) also rested ahead of a potential nightmare fixture against Saracens in Europe…
Glasgow Warriors: Ruaridh Jackson, Lee Jones, Huw Jones, Alex Dunbar, Rory Hughes, Adam Hastings, George Horne; Oli Kebble, George Turner, Adam Nicol, Andrew Davidson, Jonny Gray, Adam Ashe, Chris Fusaro, Matt Fagerson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart, Alex Allan, D’arcy Rae, Greg Peterson, Matt Smith, David Tameilau, Pete Horne, Nikola Matawalu.
Zebre: Edoardo Padovani, Gabriele di Giulio, Giulio Bisegni, Tommaso Boni, Paula Balekana, Francois Brummer, Marcello Violi; Cruze Ah-Nau, Oliviero Fabiani, Eduardo Bello, Leonardo Krumov, George Fabio Biagi, Apisai Tauyavuca, Johan Meyer, Jimmy Tuivaiti.
Replacements: Massimo Ceciliani, Daniele Rimpelli, Roberto Tenga, Samuele Ortis, Giosue Zilocchi, Riccardo Raffaele, Maicol Azzolini, Giovanbattista Venditti.
Referee: Quinton Immelman (SARU)
Scotstoun Stadium, 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports 2