Richard Cockerill says he will no longer shield his Edinburgh players from big-game pressure, insisting they must beat Scarlets on Saturday.
Edinburgh lost last weekend’s crucial Pro14 clash with Ulster at Murrayfield, six days after being knocked out of Europe on home turf by Cardiff Blues.
“The last couple of weeks we’ve encouraged the players to be positive,” head coach Cockerill said.
“We’ve tried to keep the pressure off them and we haven’t reacted well.”
He added: “The reality is, actually, I’m going to put the pressure on them, we have to win on Saturday. It’s as simple as that.
“We’re in professional sport, which is about results and winning. We have to win, the players know that.”
With a Challenge Cup semi-final at stake, Edinburgh produced one of their poorest performances of the season in the 20-6 defeat by Blues.
Cockerill’s men were well off the pace again when Ulster inflicted a 32-20 reverse on them, a match that, had Edinburgh won, would have sealed their place in the Pro14 play-offs for the first time.
They remain eight points clear of Ulster in third place in Conference B, albeit the province have a game in hand. The top three teams qualify for the knockout stage.
Cockerill believes some of his players have allowed doubts to creep into their heads at this critical stage of the campaign and wants them to rediscover the belief that has helped them exceed all expectations so far.
“I think some of us maybe worry too much about the result and maybe what’s going to happen the week after,” the former Leicester Tigers coach explained.
“Is it going to be a semi-final? Are we going to qualify? What happens if we don’t qualify? And all those doubts get into your mind.
“I think we have got the characters, the strength of character in the group, but we’ve actually got to go and do it.
“We’re talking about learning and all those other things, but at some point you just have to grit your teeth, man up, go out there and play and want it more than the opposition.”
‘We’re not good enough to win the Pro14’
Despite standing on the brink of a maiden play-off, Cockerill again played down any suggestion that his side can challenge for the title.
“I don’t believe we’re a team that are good enough to go and win the Pro14,” said Cockerill, who won three English Premiership crowns during his spell in charge of Leicester Tigers.
“If you look at Leinster and Munster, Glasgow, Scarlets, they’re better teams than us.
“Consistently over the season we’ve competed very well and we’re well in the mix, competing at the top table with those teams.
“The table doesn’t lie. We deserve to be where we’re at because we earned the right to win the points.
“I’m not sure to judge us as ‘are we a championship-winning team?’ I don’t think we are, but we’re certainly getting better.
“It’s going to take a year or two or three. That’s what it took for Glasgow and Scarlets and any other team you want to talk about. I think that’s exactly where we are at, being realistic.”
Scarlets to rest stars?
Scarlets’ next match after their trip to Edinburgh is a European Champions Cup semi-final against Leinster and Cockerill expects the reigning Pro12 champions to rest several key men against his side.
“It would make sense that they rest guys,” he said. “They’re six points above us and they play Dragons last, so if there is a game to rest players, it would be this one.
“We’ve just got to concentrate on ourselves and that’s the key for us. We’re not a mature enough team yet to hope they bring a second-string team and don’t play very well.
“I want to go out there and win the game, as we have done in some big games already this year.”