IT is a truism for any professional sport that has its leagues played over the winter that it doesn’t matter what you do in the cold dark months, it’s only when Spring arrives that you really need to perform or else all the previous efforts are wasted.

As we are now well into April, we are approaching the business end of the season for our professional rugby teams, and now is the time when Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors really need to consolidate the gains they have made in season 21-22. The good news is that they are both still in European competition, while both are doing well enough in the United Rugby Championship.

Indeed, Glasgow could do extremely well if they can eke out a victory during their time in South Africa, with Friday’s fixture against DHL Stormers in Cape Town possibly the better bet even though they lie three places ahead of Glasgow’s second opponents in South Africa, the Bulls. As my colleague David Barnes has suggested, as they currently sit 3rd in the table, if the Warriors win both games they would certainly secure a precious top four finish in the URC that would guarantee them a home draw in the play-offs, but one win might just be enough.    

Edinburgh showed that beating the South Africans on their previously impregnable home territory can be done with their win over the Sharks, and when you look at the Warriors’ squad that flew to South Africa, you see that they could field a team made up entirely of capped international players. So surely getting one win down there must be possible.

Back in Scotland, Edinburgh simply must beat Zebre on Friday night before they play the team that is currently second in the table, Ulster, on April 30. That will be a giant test, not least because Ulster will be wounded and dangerous after their exit from the Champions Cup at the hands of Toulouse – losing by the odd point in 99 was surely a sickener, though there was one moment of utter brilliance by Ulster, Ethan McIlroy’s miraculous try being something you must see on Youtube.     

The weekend after that will see both Scottish sides in action in the European Challenge Cup, and it’s here that I believe Edinburgh and Glasgow must succeed to show that professional rugby in Scotland is in good shape. After a shaky start due to Covid-19, the URC is turning into a good league but it is the European tournaments which are the bigger test of a club as the might of France and England are involved.

Edinburgh will have the advantage of a home tie against Wasps at the DAM Health Stadium  - and aren’t those red posts quite sexy at the new ground? I don’t think Edinburgh need fear Wasps, who are currently in the lower half of the English Premiership, and reaching the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup would be a fair achievement for Edinburgh.

The Warriors have a much more difficult task as they have to travel to face Lyon in the Matmut Stadium de Gerland.  Glasgow are much changed from the side which put the French team to the sword in Lyon with a five try performance in 2018 that proved that on their day, Warriors were more than a match for their opponents. Can the Warriors do the same in 2022? I don’t see why not, and while the key men from back then – Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne, Adam Hastings and Johnny Gray, to name but four – have all moved elsewhere, there are plenty of exciting talents in Scotstoun and they just need to click on the day.

Having both Scottish pro teams in the semi-finals of a European competition, albeit the second tier tournament, is what we should be expecting of them. I would remind you that no Scottish team has ever won or even reached the final of the Champions Cup, and only Edinburgh made it to the final of the Challenge Cup in 2014-15 when they were beaten by Gloucester. Clermont and Harlequins, by contrast, have each individually won the Challenge Cup three times and been runners-up once.

This could be the season for either Glasgow or Edinburgh to put that dismal record to rights, starting in May by reaching the final. I sense that could be possible, for there has been gradual improvement at both Murrayfield and Scotstoun, and here’s an interesting stat that I think proves that contention – the official ERC website shows that Edinburgh is first in the league for lineouts and turnovers won, while Glasgow Warriors are first in the league for successful scrums and tackles, as well as being second for lineouts won. Those are very good signs for our pro teams, but it is winning European tournaments, or at least making the finals, which must become the marker for Scottish success.