AFTER 517 days of waiting, Super6 will finally return tomorrow [Friday] night when Boroughmuir Bears and Heriot’s clash at Meggetland [kick-off is 7.30pm] in the first of this weekend’s three matches.
Stirling County host Southern Knights on Saturday afternoon, and Ayrshire Bulls will welcome Watsonians to Millbrae on Sunday afternoon for a game which is to be shown live online via FreeSport.
It comes as no surprise that both head coaches have picked near full-strength sides for Friday’s curtain-raiser, and while there will inevitably be some rustiness after so long without a competitive matches, there will surely be no shortage of energy.
The Bears picked up a dramatic first win of their inaugural season at home to Heriot’s back in November 2019, holding out against a late onslaught for a 34-31 win, but it wasn’t such an enjoyable experience for the Meggetland men when they coughed up nine tries in a 53-10 hammering the following January.
How much relevance either match has to this encounter is a moot point, but home head coach Graham Shiel is optimistic that the experience added by former Edinburgh and Scotland full-back Tom Brown and former Scotland 7s scrum-half Kaleem Baretto in the back-line, plus the return of powerhouse No8 Rory Drummond in the pack, can complement the core of club stalwarts he has spread throughout the side.
“Tom was one of the first group of players I worked with in the academy going back 12 years or so, and it is nice for him to have a chance to come into this programme,” said the former Scotland centre. “He just wants to enjoy a couple of seasons of turning up, training or playing, then going home, and living a normal life.
“Since he’s been training with us, he’s effectively finished his professional rugby career, he’s planned for his wedding, was called into the GB 7s squad for a weekend in Ireland, then he got married, and now he’s transitioning into normal working life. His long terms plan is to get his full qualification as a pilot license. So, I guess what we are trying to do is give him enough space and time to do that, and still have the outlet of playing rugby.
“Dare I say it, I don’t want Tom to do anything other than come along and be himself, because he’s got nothing to prove to anybody,” Shiel continued. “He’s just a really genuine individual who has fitted into the squad really well. When he imparts knowledge, the other players receive it really well, so it is great to have someone of Tom’s stature coming in to do that.
“For the whole competition, I think it will be beneficial to see more of these guys coming out of the pro game and adding a bit of experience, skill and guile with it.
“I’ve also worked with Kaleem a fair bit over the years with the academy at Glasgow and he’s a great individual who works really hard at his game and holds himself to very high standards, so I think very highly of him.
“Whenever he is in training or on the ball, he brings something extra, which is great for us as coaches and also for the guys around him in terms of pushing the levels and asking questions of other players in our squad, which helps us to consistently improve and build a better game than we had initially.
“There is a nucleus of players who have been pretty consistent throughout the whole period, from season one and beyond, and I’m really pleased that they are still there because they are loyal guys who have been around the club for a long time,” he added. “But we knew we had to strengthen the squad as well, and it is not easy bringing quality in – especially in the middle of the pandemic – but we’re pretty happy with who we’ve got on board.
“To be honest, I don’t think it would matter too much who we are playing on Friday night, simply because it is back to playing rugby after training for a long time so the guys are just desperate to get our there.”
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The visitors are fielding a familiar looking side, although new boy Cammy Fenton will bring professional experience to the pack, while Bruce Houston – a 21-year-old Scottish-qualified former Ulster academy stand-off – and Scotland 7s and former Jed wing Callum Young will look to spice up the backline.
“I think we’ve always played good rugby and thrown the ball around, so we just want to tighten up what we are doing in our 22 and in the opposition 22,” said head coach Andrew Kelly, the former Edinburgh and Scotland A hooker who arrived back in Edinburgh from Hong Kong to observe the tail-end of the inaugural Super6 season, and has now set about putting his own imprint on the side.
“It has obviously been a bit top-start, with Super6 aiming to do the ‘Sprint’ [before Christmas] then that being cancelled, but now we really have had a run at it,” he explained. “I think I’ve gotten to know the players a lot more – had a few one-on-ones with them and got to know them off the pitch – so it has been slower than in normal times, but it is definitely coming towards my team now.
“We have retained a lot from last season, so it has just been a process for me in terms of getting to know the guys and all of us understanding how we want to play the game.
“The guys are tense. They’ve had us barking at them for long enough, and telling them about Covid restrictions for long enough, so now they are just wired and ready to play. You can feel that energy in training.”
Interestingly, both sides have gone for six-two splits between forwards and backs on the bench, which suggests that the battle up-front is going to be key.
Boroughmuir Bears (versus Heriot’s @ Meggetland on Friday 30th July, kick-off 7.30pm): T Brown; J Edumnds, R Kerr, R McCallum, C Ramm; T Pittman, K Barreto; R Duncar, C McKenzie, D Winning (co-captain), E Stewart, J Ficher, C Keddie (co-captain), S McGinley, R Drummond.
Subs: F Scott, G Cave, A McWilliam, E Ferrie, T Andrews, R Tait, K McGhie, G Faulds.
Heriot’s: R Jones (vice-captain); J Couper, R McMichael, R Kay, C Young; B Houston, A Bell; A Nimmo, C Fenton, J Scott, R Leishman, C Marshall, I Wilson (captain), J McLean, J Mann.
Subs: M Liness, C Keen, S Cessford, R Seydak, F Hastie, J Hill, L Wheeldon, S Edwards.
- Tickets for this match can be bought HERE.