AS they returned home from their early season mini tour of South Africa with a bounty of two from a potential 10 United Rugby Championship league points, the Edinburgh squad will look to focus on the positives of having been genuinely competitive against the two finalists from last season in their own backyards.

But they will also be determined to use their sense of frustration at not landing a bugger haul as a driver to further improvement during the remainder of this season.

Edinburgh scored five tries to the Bulls’ four at Loftus Versfeld two weekends ago and only missed out on a dramatic victory when Henry Immelman missed a long-range last-minute penalty.

Then, last Saturday, they bullied their way to a 10-0 lead against last season’s URC champions the Stormers after half-an-hour and were still in the hunt for a losing bonus point when Dave Cherry went over for the second of the team’s two tries with five minutes to go, before a late score from Suleiman Hartzenberg put the veneer on the 34-18 home victory.

Fairly positive stuff, but as head coach Mike Blair pointed out there is still plenty of scope for improvement.

“These are tough games – they are proper Test match-type scenarios against international quality teams – but the guys are thriving and taking on the challenge,” he said. “We want to be proud of what we’ve done, but we also want to be ambitious and challenge ourselves. It is fine to be in games, but let’s be in a better position to finish games, because I believe we’ve got the squad to be able to do that.”

Blair’s big gripe after the Stormers defeat that Irish referee Frank Murphy had failed, in his opinion, to adequately reward his team’s dominant scrum.

Having played 69 minutes at loose-head prop, Pierre Schoeman takes a major chunk of the credit for this commanding set-piece performance from the visitors, and he had no time for suggestions from the South African media – not renowned for their impartiality – that the playing surface might have been a factor that contributed to the home team’s set-piece woes.

“There are two sides battling and if one side goes down while the other stays up, it is maybe nothing to do with the surface but how you handle the surface,” said Schoeman who scored the first of Edinburgh’s two tries against the Stormers.

“It is their home stadium, and they know the pitch much better than us. I know Rassie [Erasmus, the Springboks’ director of rugby] was at the game so they would have wanted to prove a point, and they have got Brok Harris on the bench as well, but WP Nel, Stuart McInally and all our back-five were incredible.

“I spoke to their guys after the game and they said they felt they were under pressure, so credit to our team, and that’s something we’ve got to build on. We would have loved a few more penalties during the game but we’ll continue to work on that.

“We should have put more points on the board with a better conversion rate, but I think we take massive confidence out of these two games as well.

“Last week, the Bulls match was a real big positive and we picked up some points on the road, then this week we were not far off having a good lead at the end of the first half, which would have given us the mentality of ‘let’s get another try or two’ going into the second half.

“It is always a challenge against my fellow South Africans, they are a tough bunch, but it is nice as a pack from Scotland and Edinburgh, to stand for our country and our city and compete against some of the world’s best players and teams.

“So, we are leaving South Africa with a lot of confidence. We’re not satisfied. But our set-piece was really good, and maybe there is room for improvement with our speed to set in attack.”

Schoeman and his team-mates face South African opposition again this weekend, this time in the form of the Emirates Lions back at the DAM Health Stadium on Friday night.

“The Lions had a good win over Cardiff at the weekend, and what is clear from that game is that they fought right to the end – kept their foot on the pedal right up to the last minute – so we know it is going to be a battle,” Schoeman said.