IT WOULD be fair to say that Blair Kinghorn did not have the happiest of times in South Africa over the past fortnight. Normally one of the most ebullient members of the Edinburgh squad as well as one of its most important players on the field, the stand-off was ruled out of the team’s first match, a narrow defeat by the Bulls, by a stomach bug. He came back for the weekend’s game against the Stormers, but was unable to prevent another defeat, and then along with his team-mates had to put up with a three-hour delay on the tarmac before they were eventually able to fly home.
Yet despite such difficulties, Kinghorn remains in confident mood as he looks forward to Edinburgh’s home game on Friday against a third South African team, the Lions. Yes, his team lost 33-31 to the Bulls and 34-18 to the Stormers, but he is convinced that they are close to hitting the sort of form that will justify his belief that they are real title contenders for this season’s United Rugby Championship.
“I think we’re going to win it - that’s the only thing we have in our minds,” the 25-year-old said yesterday. “Obviously it starts with getting into the top four and a home quarter-final. Confidence is high, the boys are happy, and we’re back here on Friday night.
“Watching it back today, there were certain areas of our game [in South Africa] where we just weren’t clinical enough. The Stormers made it really hard for us to score points when we were down in their 22 for 10, 15 minutes in the first half. And then we kind of let them in a little too easily, whether it was through an error or not executing something correctly. So I think we’ve just got to be a bit more clinical in certain areas of the park.
“We took some real positives from it. We should have won the Bulls game, and then after being in the lead against the Stormers we should have shut that out better than we did. So there’s lots of positives to take, but I think we just need to be a little bit more clinical.”
Had he been on the field, Kinghorn might have made the difference in that tight game against the Bulls, as it came down to a last-minute penalty, missed by Edinburgh full-back Henry Immelman. But the playmaker, who is normally the team’s first-choice goal-kicker, revealed there was no way he could have got up from his sick bed and on to the field.
“I was watching it in my bed,” he explained. “Shocking - it was terrible.
“I was rooming with Jamie Ritchie. I woke up about 2am and I was like ‘Oh, I don’t feel so good’.
“Everyone has had a stomach bug or food poisoning before. He goes to the toilet and I was like ‘Right, I’ll be sick’. Then I was sick and I thought hopefully that’s the end of it, but I got back in my bed and 45 minutes later I felt sick again.
“I was like that for five or six hours. Then it started coming out the other end.
“And I was stuck in my hotel room for 36 hours. Terrible. I’m not sure where I got it from - I think it was just me who had it.”
Kinghorn started against the Stormers, and admitted to feeling a bit stiff yesterday after that first outing of the season. Even so, he and his team-mates felt a lot better than they did on arrival back home after being cooped up in a plane for a lot longer than expected.
“We got stuck on the tarmac for three hours. We left the gate, we were pretty much all the way out to the runway, and then we were told we were heading back because of some technical difficulties. We went back, it took an hour for them to get sorted out, and then we were told there was no-one in air-traffic control.
“So then we were two more hours on the tarmac - after a game and everyone was shattered. But we got home eventually in one piece.”