Sean Everitt will coach a team containing Jamie Ritchie for the first time this evening when Edinburgh take on the Bulls. But the South African has already seen enough of the back-row forward to be convinced that, provided he regains his best form in the coming months, he could help Scotland win next year’s Six Nations Championship.

Ritchie has been out of action since injuring a shoulder in the national team’s defeat by Ireland at the Rugby World Cup - a result that knocked Scotland out of the tournament at the pool stage. So far the most prominent interaction between him and Everitt, who took up his post in the close season, has been the decision by the senior coach not to reappoint him as Edinburgh captain for this current campaign.

However, far from being an indication that he does not rate Ritchie, Everitt explained yesterday that he believes his decision could be of major benefit to the national side.

“Jamie has been really good at training,” he said after announcing his team to take on the URC leaders at Hive Stadium. “He’s a true professional and that’s one of the reasons why he is captain of Scotland. He leads from the front.

“Not having the [Edinburgh] captaincy allows him to focus on his game and the job at hand, which bodes well for Scottish rugby, because if he’s in form going into the Six Nations, Scotland have a good chance of winning the Six Nations.

“He’s been amazing in terms of his input in team meetings, and my personal interactions with him have been great. We are coaches, but he has played many international games and we can also learn from a guy like that. Everyone has a lot of respect for him and he’s raring to go and pay back to the club.”

While Scotland fell well short of their best against both Ireland and South Africa in France, Everitt is convinced that could work in Edinburgh’s favour this season. “I’ve coached teams who have done really well at the World Cup and won World Cups, and it’s quite difficult to get those guys motivated,” he continued. “But when it doesn’t go that well, the players want to come back and do well for their franchises.

“Sometimes when you lose a game like Scotland did in the last pool match at the World Cup, there is a lot of doubt. But you’ve got to look back to a few weeks prior to the World Cup and see the form the team was in.

“Jamie was in that form as well. We must not judge players on their last game. I know there’s a saying that you’re only as good as your last game, but we’ve got to look at the form that Scotland took into the World Cup and he was definitely leading from the front there.”

Ritchie is in his usual position of blindside this evening as one of three changes to the team that beat Connacht last week. He takes over in the back row from Tom Dodd, tighthead prop WP Nel starts instead of Javan Sebastian, and club captain Ben Vellacott is at scrum-half instead of Charlie Shiel.

Ali Price, meanwhile, is set to make his debut off the bench after moving on a season-long loan from Glasgow Warriors last week. “Ali has fitted in really well,” Everitt added. “He seems happy and we’re delighted to have him.”

The coach also revealed that Darcy Graham, while sidelined by a hip injury since the World Cup, has had a knee operation to remove a screw that had been causing irritation for 11 months. The winger remains on course to make his return against Ulster in a fortnight.

Like Edinburgh, the Bulls have won three of their four URC games so far. But the South Africans are three points clear of the home side - and top of the table - thanks to their bonus points. “They will want to be direct and they will feel they can bully us with their physicality,” Everitt added. “I know we have the players in the squad to be able to stand up to that.”

Former Edinburgh stand-off Jaco van der Walt is poised to make his debut off the bench for the team from Pretoria, but there is no place in the visitors’ line-up for Akker van der Merwe, brother of the more famous Duhan.

Edinburgh (v Bulls at Hive Stadium, tonight [Friday] 7.35pm): B Kinghorn; W Goosen, M Bennett, J Lang, D van der Merwe; B Healy, B Vellacott; P Schoeman, E Ashman, W Nel, G Young, G Gilchrist, J Ritchie, C Boyle, W Mata. Replacements:  D Cherry, B Venter, J Sebastian, M Sykes, T Dodd, A Price, C Scott, C Dean.

Bulls: D Williams; S de Klerk, S Gans, D Kriel, S Petersen; J Goosen, E Papier; G Steenekamp, J Grobbelaar, W Louw, R Vermaak, R Nortje, M Coetzee, E Louw, C Hanekom. Replacements: S Matanzima, J Wessels, M Smith, R Ludwig, N Carr, K Johannes, J van der Walt, C Brink.