EDINBURGH coach Mike Blair has wheeled out the big guns for this evening’s home game against Benetton as he bids to end a run of three defeats in the United Rugby Championship. Pierre Schoeman and WP Nel are back in the front row, Sam Skinner returns at lock, and most significantly of all, Duhan van der Merwe will make his second debut after re-joining from Worcester Warriors earlier in the month.

Emiliano Boffelli moves from the left wing to full-back to make room for Van der Merwe, with Henry Immelman losing out. Darcy Graham retains his place on the right as part of a back three which, presuming Van der Merwe gets anywhere close to his best form, should stretch the Italian defence to breaking point and beyond.

“There’s a good balance to it,” Blair said of that section of his team. “There’s obviously size and power, there’s some guile, and there’s Darcy, who’s just a pocket dynamo. There’s a good mix of skill sets.

“It’s important to get them into the game - get them on the ball and get the crowd behind us. Those three guys are very good in the air, good defenders as well, and they need to be able to put pressure on the other team as well.

“There was a nervous wait about Duhan getting his work permit, but it came through on Wednesday afternoon, so all good to go now. He’s had a couple of days’ training, he’s bedded in well, and he’s just booking forward to getting out and experiencing Edinburgh Rugby at the DAM Health.”

While the venue will be a novelty for Van der Merwe, who played his home games at BT Murrayfield during his first spell with the team, everything else should be pretty familiar. He has so far only played against Boffelli - in Scotland’s summer Test series against Argentina - rather than with him. But both men have such an instinctive understanding of how to attack that they are likely to need little or no time to become accustomed to each other’s style of play.

In all, Van der Merwe is one of seven personnel changes made by Blair to his starting line-up from the team that lost 22-19 to the Lions last Friday night. The one other alteration to the back division sees Mark Bennett return at centre in place of Matt Currie.

Up front, Schoeman and Nel are joined by Dave Cherry in an all-new front row in place of Boan Venter, Luan de Bruin and Stuart McInally respectively. Sam Skinner is at lock instead of Glen Young. And in the back row, Nick Haining replaces Hamish Watson, but will wear the No 6 jersey, with Luke Crosbie moving to openside.

McInally and Watson are on the injury list along with Jamie Ritchie and Ben Vellacott, but all should be available for selection again in the next few weeks, according to Blair. That quartet would all be in Blair’s first-choice team, but despite their omission, the head coach has nonetheless been able to name a very strong squad to face Benetton.

There will be a certain amount of pressure on Edinburgh to win this one given their recent record, which has seen them earn only losing bonus points against the Bulls and the Lions and get nothing at all from their game against the Stormers. But that pressure will not translate into any discernible change in style, according to Blair, who remains convinced that the elimination of avoidable errors is the key to getting back on the winning trail.

“Against the Lions, when we scored a try to go 19-12 up with seven or eight minutes to go, I believed we had done everything right,” he said. “There were some errors in there but it’s just how you cover them up, and we had put ourselves in a position to go on and win that game with a bonus point. That didn’t work out.

“We created opportunities but didn’t quite take them but it’s not something I’m too hung up on. We’ve been free-flowing in our attack and scored a decent amount of tries and points. So that doesn’t concern me too much.”

Edinburgh (v Benetton at the DAM Health Stadium, today[Sat] 5.15pm): E Boffelli; D Graham, M Bennett, J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Kinghorn, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, D Cherry, W Nel, S Skinner, G Gilchrist (captain), N Haining, L Crosbie, V Mata. Substitutes: A McBurney, B Venter, L De Bruin, J Hodgson, B Muncaster, C Shiel, C Savala, C Dean.

Benetton: E Padovani, M Bellini, T Menoncello, M Zanon, R Tavuyara, T Albornoz, S Hidalgo-Clyne, T Gallo, G Lucchesi, N Tetaz, M Lazzaroni (captain), C Wegner, A Steyn, T Halafihi, H Time-Stowers. Substitutes: M Arroyo, F Zani, T Pasquali, N Piantella, A Izekor, M Albanese, F Drago, D Passarella.

Referee: Marius van der Westhuisen (South Africa).