BOROUGHMUIR BEARS have received the ideal boost to morale ahead of the new Super Series Championship with the news that Gilbert Rugby have signed a long-term agreement to be their kit sponsors. The deal also covers the senior Boroughmuir sides as well as the boys’ and girls’ teams at the Meggetland club, and the newly-sponsored kit will be on show for the first time on Friday night, when the Bears are at home to Heriot’s in the opening round of the Championship.
“I am very proud to enter into a long-term agreement with Gilbert,” Bears general manager Rob Moffat said today [Wednesday]. “They are a global brand synonymous with rugby, which makes them the perfect partner for Boroughmuir RFC and Boroughmuir Bears. The kit designs, whilst steeped in history, are highly technical and fashionable.”
Boroughmuir RFC president Stevie Douglas emphasised the importance of having a deal that covers the full range of the club’s on-field activities. “This is a special agreement for the club,” he said. “It reaches across all areas of the club from primary school, high performance, male and female players. The agreement reflects our ‘commitment to one club, one culture, one community’.”
Gilbert, who are celebrating their bicentenary this year, will provide the match balls for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in France. While the four-yearly event is the pinnacle of the sport, the company remain committed to investment at grass-roots level, according to head of sales Luke Gray.
“We are delighted to welcome Boroughmuir RFC and the Bears to our global network of partners,” he said. “In any partnership it is important that values are aligned; as a family-run company steeped in history we share many common traits with the Boroughmuir club. We were impressed by the future vision the club outlined, focussing on community and inclusion as well as performance on the field.”
When it comes to performance on the field in this season’s Championship, the Bears will be looking to build on their achievement in 2022, when they finished third. They fared less well in the Sprint earlier this year, ending up second bottom, so consistency is an issue.
But head coach Graham Shiel believes that there are other ways than results of measuring the Bears’ success or otherwise in the Super Series. Similarly, he thinks that the tournament itself has to be assessed according to what it can do for Scottish rugby as a whole, not just for the franchises who compete within it.
Speaking recently – and before the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy in which Scotland yesterday failed to reach the final – the former Scotland international suggested that the Super Series had at least begun to bear fruit by exposing promising young players to a more demanding level of the game. And he suggested that, rather than taking sides in a polarised debate about the competition, it would be better for people to accept it was simply an alternative way of doing things to what had gone before.
“It’s not right, it’s not wrong, it’s not good, it’s not bad: it’s different,” Shiel said. “What’s different is that we have to make sure we prepare players in a more methodical manner to make them stronger, fitter, faster and more robust, so that they can move from this level of rugby hopefully into under-20s or beyond.
“That was one of the things for me at Boroughmuir, to say ‘How do we get players who come through our own club to push on into Super Series rugby?’ There wasn’t evidence of that happening in abundance over many years, so it was trying to acknowledge that this was going to be different.
“The key thing for me is putting a process and a system in place that will be robust enough and hopefully will stay in being for many years at Boroughmuir which produces players like Liam McConnell, like Jerry Blyth-Lafferty and Ollie Blyth-Lafferty – but on a regular basis, because we’re actually looking after them.
“You could argue that it should have been happening beforehand, but for whatever reason, it maybe wasn’t. And we’ve got a bigger responsibility and accountability on us to produce them now for a higher level of rugby, which is a completely different animal. So for me the massive bonus [of the Super Series] is giving guys opportunities.”
No matter how well the Bears fare in the Championship, Shiel is convinced that success at that level cannot be deemed enough for the club as a whole. The senior Boroughmuir men’s team will ply their trade in National Three this season, well below their accustomed standing in the domestic game, and he believes that some measure of levelling-up would be a vital indicator of progress. At the same time, though, he sees player development throughout the club as arguably more important than on-field success.
“At the moment the club as a whole are finding it difficult to deal with what we’re asking from the Bears,” he acknowledged. “It’s a massive concern.
“We need to evolve the way in which we develop our young people so that they can play a wider brand and range of games of rugby. Now winning is clearly an outcome, but if we measure our success on winning and losing, that’s not for me the measurement at Boroughmuir. It needs to be part of it, but we need to measure our success on the next version of the Blyth-Laffertys and McConnells.”
Your Boroughmuir Bears FOSROC Super Series Championship Squad 2023 🐻 pic.twitter.com/5ofSXCoBiL
— Boroughmuir Bears (@MuirBears) July 19, 2023
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