MOMENTUM in sport – as in life – is a valuable thing, and news that Edinburgh have found their own, standalone shirt sponsor for the next three seasons adds weight to the general feeling that after years of stagnation the capital outfit are finally beginning to build up a head of steam travelling in the right direction.
Less than two weeks after Edinburgh announced that they have both rebranded and submitted a planning application to construct a semi-permanent stadium for the team on the back pitches at Murrayfield, another positive step was unveiled yesterday with news that one of the UK’s largest Chartered Independent Financial Advisors, Principal & Prosper, has become the club’s main sponsor for the next three years. BT Sport, as part of a larger association with the Scottish Rugby Union, has been the lead sponsor on the Edinburgh strip for the last five seasons.
On the playing front, there was some positive chat as well, with international tight-head prop WP Nel asserting that he will have recovered from the clean-up operation he recently undertook on his knee and will be fighting fit and raring to go at the start of the 2018-19 campaign after an injury-ravaged couple of seasons.
It might be pushing it to suggest that Nel’s availability will feel like a new signing given that he has managed 19 appearances for the club during the last two seasons, but those who remember his remarkable durability during the first four years of his time in Scotland will appreciate just how big a miss his near constant presence in the squad has been during the last two years.
During his time battling against a neck injury which derailed his hopes of making the 2017 Lions tour, and a broken arm which blew a large hole in last season, both Simon Berghan and Murray McCallum have emerged as not only strong options at club level but also Scotland caps at tight-head prop, while the arrival of Italian international Pietro Ceccarelli means that there is going to be a terrific four-way battle for the number three jersey next season.
Nel says he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m recovering from this knee clean-up at the minute, I will be ready in four or five weeks. It was something that I needed to get done to be ready for the next season,” said the South African-born front-rower.
“The body feels well, the mind is fresh, so all I can do now is get myself ready and get out on the pitch when the season starts. You can’t choose when and why you are injured so for me it has been a learning curve having not really been injured for ten years and then having two bad seasons. I have learnt how to manage things, get well and get myself back on the pitch.
“It was tough to watch the boys, but they have driven the club forward and now all I can do is get back on the field and help them go even further this coming season.”
Nel has previously admitted that the neck injury which curtailed his 2016-17 season did cause him to question whether his career as a professional player was about to come to a premature end, but he says that is now ancient history.
“There were worries [with the neck injury], but I am fresh now and the mind is clear – I just can’t wait to get out on the field now and to play some rugby.”
And, with that in mind, the timing of this run of bad luck could end up being a blessing in disguise. At 32, he is no longer a spring chicken, and with a hectic schedule stretching out in front of those players who have genuine aspirations of making next September’s Rugby World Cup, Nel is starting out on the cavalry charge towards Japan with real energy and plenty to prove.
“Yes, if you look that way maybe, but let’s take the season start and see how it goes,” says the ever-cautious South African. “I am taking this as hopefully the last injury now. After these last two seasons, I must say that the body feels like it wants to play a bit of rugby, so I feel really good and the young boys keep me on my toes.
“In five or six weeks I should be ready for full training. I will be ready for the start of the season, there is no doubt about that.”