WHETHER through shrewd planning, good fortune or a bit of both, Edinburgh managed to complete the bulk of their business for next season before rugby came grinding to a halt. When precisely play resumes is, of course, unknown and out of their control, but they are at least confident that they will be in good shape to hit the ground running.

Richard Cockerill’s team are due to publish a full list of departures later this week, with only a couple of questions still waiting to be answered. We learned at the start of last month that props Pietro Ceccarelli and Jack Stanley were leaving for Brive and Gloucester respectively, and the head coach revealed last week that John Barclay would not be an Edinburgh player next season.

Simon Hickey also seems certain to leave, and in fact is already back in his native New Zealand, having received permission to go home as his father has been unwell. And it remains to be seen whether centre Matt Scott joins the stand-off on his way out.

The new arrivals include teenage South African centre Jordan Venter and Fijian prop Lee-Roy Atalifo.

Cockerill has already said he would need an experienced 10 to compete with Jaco van der Walt if Hickey were to leave, with Worcester’s Jono Lance being one potential target. The head coach has also mentioned another, younger, stand-off, Scotland Under-20 cap Nathan Chamberlain, as a possible recruit, while there has been interest in luring lock Marshall Sykes from Glasgow.

“We’ve been looking at our 10 options and Jono has been one of them,” Cockerill said of Lance. “Along with looking at guys like Nathan Chamberlain and other guys who are Scottish qualified.

“We’ll probably be a couple of players lighter from a numbers point of view,” the coach continued when asked about his squad as a whole. “We’ve done everything we can to keep all our best players and there are some important Test players who have re-signed for next season and beyond.

“Ninety-five-plus per cent of that squad will be staying. We’ve had a lot of guys come in and out through injuries – Sam Thomson, Stan South, Matt Smith. The squad’s sort of inflated as the season’s gone on because of circumstances. There are some guys who will naturally drift away because they’ve been on loan, so we’ll be probably two players down for next season. We’ll probably have a squad of 45 or 46 and maybe one or two partnership players with Super6.”

Whoever else joins between now and next season, Venter is sure to be the subject of a lot of attention. When his signing was announced there was disquiet among those who thought a young Scottish player should have been given a chance instead, but Cockerill insisted he had to balance his aim of helping domestic players develop with the need to ensure Edinburgh are as competitive as possible.

“We’ve got to explore these avenues around South African schoolboys or players from all over the world, because that’s the nature of the business we’re in. If he’s better than young Scottish players, he’ll get the opportunity. If Scottish lads are better than him and coming through the system – and we’ve got some very good ones – they can play in front of him. It’s about creating a deeper squad with the budget we have and create as much competition as we can.”

Venter’s life was hit by tragedy three years ago when he was a passenger in a car crash which resulted in the deaths of three family members. He was left with a number of serious injuries, including a fractured skull, and had to embark on a long programme of recovery before he was even able to lead a normal life again, never mind being ready to return to playing rugby.

“It’s an amazing story, really, which clearly has a bearing on how he approaches life and the opportunities he wants to take,” Cockerill said. “So fair play to him. He’s physically very well developed, and after reading [about his past] you can obviously understand why.

“He [Venter] has an English mother so he can get into the country. In five years’ time he can play for Scotland. In two years’ time, if he kills it here, he can go and play for England or South Africa.

“At the moment he’s still a young man, he’s never played at this level, so we’ve no idea what he’s going to be like at senior end.”