Edinburgh Rugby: Sasa Tofilau - from 'jungle rugby' to Pro12

Sasa Tofilau holds off a Newcastle tackle in Edinburgh's second pre-season match
Tofilau played in Edinburgh's pre-season matches and could make his Pro12 debut against Cardiff Blues on Saturday

New Edinburgh centre Sasa Tofilau is primed for his Pro12 debut after a rapid switch from the 'jungle rugby' of the Scottish club game's third tier.

The Samoa-born 22-year-old was playing for Kirkcaldy in Scottish National League Two last season.

But after being invited to a trial for Edinburgh's A team, he then starred in their victory at the Melrose Sevens.

A one-year contract offer followed, and Tofilau is now set for his Pro12 debut after playing both pre-season games.

Tofilau explained: "I had no deal back home in New Zealand and Quintan Sanft [Kirkcaldy's head coach, who won two caps for Samoa in 2000] phoned me up and said 'why don't you come over here and experience Edinburgh?'

"I heard Edinburgh was an awesome city so I thought I'd tick it off my bucket list, and that is how it all happened."

Tolifau is a former member of the Chiefs development squad in Waikato, and has also played for Australia's Under-20s.

But the transition from the third division of Scottish club rugby in Fife to the professional game in the past two months has been abrupt.

"Kirkcaldy was 'no structure' rugby, more 'jungle rugby', that is what I call it - everyone flying everywhere," Tolifau said.

"Coming to Edinburgh has definitely woken me up and added a lot more skills to my game. We have some awesome coaches and [backs coach] Duncan Hodge has taken me under his wing.

Edinburgh backs coach Duncan Hodge (centre) shares a joke with defence coach Peter Wilkins
Ex-Scotland fly-half Duncan Hodge, Edinburgh's backs coach, has been helping Tolifau

"He has told me it takes time, be patient - I will learn things slowly and there is no rush.

"It has been awesome so far. It is probably the toughest training I have experienced in pre-season, but I have enjoyed it. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have been given.

"Coming from the outside, I definitely have something to prove so if I start this week against Cardiff Blues, I will cherish the moment."

What can Edinburgh fans expect?

If the 16st 12lb Tofilau, who emigrated to New Zealand with his family as a five-year-old, holds true to his Samoan roots, Edinburgh may discover a new dimension to their attacking game.

"I like the ball in hand and I also like defence a lot," he said. "But I think I bring a different kind of flair to the backline - I like to attack and offload and put my wingers in space.

Phil Burleigh holds off a Newcastle tackler in Edinburgh's pre-season match
Tofilau has forged a centre partnership with Phil Burleigh in pre-season

"Our forwards are awesome at the set-piece so I just have to focus on my job of breaking the gain-line. Fortunately, I have Phil Burleigh and Duncan Weir to help me out.

"Phil has really helped me out in terms of the midfield and his knowledge of the game. It is not always about 'crash and bash', it is about playing smart and territory."

'I think we can finish in top four'

Tolifau may be new to the squad, but he shares the pre-season optimism swirling around the capital club that the new season will bring more success than recent campaigns.

"The boys have said the last couple of seasons have been pretty inconsistent but we have set a strong goal this year," he added.

"We have had a tough pre-season and we are ready to reap the rewards now. Top four is a definite positive target for us. I think we can do it.

"We have a good strong squad and a lot of depth, so I think we will have a lot of rotation this year."

Edinburgh in Pro12 - last five years
SeasonPositionWins & Points
2015-169thW11 D0 L11 Pts 54
2014-158thW10 D1 L11 Pts 48
2013-148thW7 D0 L15 Pts 38
2012-1310thW7 D0 L15 Pts 36
2011-1211thW 6 D1 L15 Pts 32

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