As with four other Australian-born recruits, his move is partly down to being Scottish qualified and still available to play for the land of his forefathers, his grandfather William Bain, who came from Falkirk, having played for Aberdeen FC before emigrating.
For all the benefits this policy brings in widening the playing base available to be considered by the national side, these are players with much still to prove in the professional game. Moreso in Hiltebrand's case since he is a front-row forward with one of the lesser Super Rugby sides in an era when Australian front-row play is hardly feared.
Raised in what is far from a rugby hotbed in South Australia, he may also be a late developer in a department where there is scope for that to be the case, as Glasgow's Ryan Grant has most recently demonstrated.
He spent six years in Sydney club rugby with Manly before being picked up by Western Force earlier this year where he was brought in principally as a hooker. However, at a time when Edinburgh are seeking to turn former Scotland squad member Stuart McInally from a back-row forward into a hooker, his new club is describing their latest signing as capable of playing with either a No.2 or a No.3 on his back, having also played tighthead prop while at Manly.
"James' versatility will be very useful for us, especially when you consider the attritional nature of the front row and immense physicality they must endure over the course of the season," said Alan Solomons, the new head coach, who hails from South Africa where they know a thing or two about scrummaging.
At 6 feet and 18 stones he should certainly be able to fill both jerseys on offer and he is naturally excited by the opportunity presented by his dual qualification. "I want to get a taste of Scottish rugby as soon as possible. I think this move is coming at the perfect time for me to learn from the best and keep progressing my footie," he said. "I hope to bring a different rugby perspective because of my different pathway into pro rugby."