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SA affair as Scotland's pride clash

PREVIEW: It will be a South African affair when Edinburgh and Glasgow meet on Friday in their United Rugby Championship derby to commemorate 150 years of intense clashes between the two clubs.

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Scotland’s oldest rugby rivalry takes centre stage and as the fixture has grown older, its South African interest has grown as well.

Glasgow’s coach, South African Franco Smith, has made a lot of changes for the second week in a row. In the previous week Smith fielded what looked like an understrength side, but was rewarded with a win against Johann van Graan’s new team Bath.

This week though, it takes on new significance, with both sides finding immense European form as they return to look for some vital URC points in a clash that is about more than just pride.

Glasgow put in a fine performance to beat Perpignan in the Challenge Cup last Friday night after their South African coach Franco Smith made a host of changes for the second week in a row.

Smith’s team boast a number of South African-born players, including Ollie Kebble, Allan Dell, Nathan Mcbeth, JP Du Preez, Sintu Manjezi, Kyle Steyn and Huw Jones while Edinburgh have Van der Merwe, Pierre Schoeman, WP Nel, Luan de Bruin, Boan Venter, Henry Immelmann and Jaco van der Walt. This gives the 1872 Cup a distinct South African flavour this year.

Compare that to Edinburgh, who bounced back from their defeat to Munster in their last URC game to record two good performances in a row in the Heineken Champions’ Cup. While they may have narrowly lost at Saracens, they picked up a bonus point before an impressive bonus-point win at home against Castres on Saturday.

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But the injury gods have not been good to Edinburgh as they lost Duhan van der Merwe before kickoff and then Stuart McInally just four minutes into that game, while Blair Kinghorn left the field not long afterwards either.

Still their grit and determination got them through and both sides are now eyeing qualification in January into the last 16 of the competition but first comes their head to head clash.

To add to it all, the 1872 trophy was “replenished” this week and a commemorative plinth was added to the definitive ‘head-to-head’ of world rugby’s oldest intercity rivalry.

The sides first met on 23 November 1872 when Glasgow District met an Edinburgh District select at Burnbank in Glasgow. The match – played by teams of 20-a-side – was won by an Edinburgh drop-goal to nil, giving the men from the capital first victory.

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The fixture has been contested annually ever since – save for five and six-year absences during World War One and World War Two respectively – and is a cornerstone of Scottish rugby history.

In 2007 the intercity contest was rebranded by the two sides in recognition of the historic derby, with ‘The 1872 Cup’ inaugurated in honour of that very first fixture.

Some 15 years on, Edinburgh Rugby sought the help of Hamilton & Inches – creators of both the Doddie Weir Cup and Cuttitta Cup – to begin a project of restoration and refurbishment that would revitalise the trophy but also retain the charm of the claret jug.

The 1872 Cup will now rest upon a newly commissioned three-tier plinth of European oak, the overall winners from 1872 to 2021 etched in silver – Edinburgh taking inter-city honours 70 times to Glasgow’s 52, with 15 draws.

The 1872 Cup will be decided on aggregate points after next weekend’s derby in the capital city.

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