IT isn’t quite a winner-takes-all shoot-out, but tomorrow [Friday] night’s clash between Stirling Wolves and Southern Knights is likely to be season-defining for both team.
The currently fourth-placed visitors are two points ahead of their opponents in the league table going into this penultimate Super Series Championship regular season clash so they know that a positive result will clinch the final play-off place, regardless of the outcome of their final league match away to high-flying Heriot’s the following Friday.
Meanwhile, the hosts must win to take their destiny back into their own hands, with their remaining league match away to struggling Bproughmuir Bears next Saturday.
Wolves head coach Eddie Pollock has replaced injured tight-head Lewis Skinner with Marius Tamosaitis, while co-captain Connor Gordon returns from suspension at openside flanker in place of Lewis Wynne, and Ed Timpson replaces Shaun MacDonald as back-row cover on the bench. Eric Davey comes into the 23 for Kyle McGhie in the backline replacements.
“This is a make-or-break game for both teams in respect of getting a position in the play-offs,” acknowledged Pollock. “Southern Knights have improved as the season has progressed and sit just above us at present in the fourth play-off position.
“In what will be our last home match for the 2023 season we need to find a top performance to make sure we find a way to win and prolong our season for another few weeks. We are hoping for a big home support to give the boys the lift they need in this crunch match. It should be a cracker!’
Meanwhile, Knights head coach Alan Tait, welcomes back back-rowers Garry Young and Sam Derrick from injury to bolster the bench, while Donald Voas (Biggar Rugby) and Ben Weir (Melrose Rugby) are also named among the replacements as emergency loan cover.
“It’s obviously a huge fixture for both teams and could determine who gets the last place in the top four, albeit we still have another game to play,” said Tait.
“We know the Wolves will be hurting from the previous two games and will come out firing and have a point to prove at home so an exceptional defensive performance from us is the ask. This group has grown so much over the past six months, and we are proud to be giving ourselves a crack at the top four and rightly so.
Stirling Wolves (versus Southern Knight at Bridgehaugh on Friday @ 7.35pm):: G Bryce; M Heron, R Southern, M Holden©, R McKnight; C Jackson, B Afshar; G Breese, S Rainey, M Tamosaitis, H Ferguson, J Pow, R Knott, C Gordon, E Hasdell. Subs: TBC, L Quarm, M Ogunlaja, T Smith, E Timpson, E Davey, E Cunningham, S Rockley.
Southern Knights: D Crawford; A Cross, P Anderson, A Hall, C Barrett; G McNeish©, C Bell; J Dobie, C Thunder, D Gamble, T Nwosu-Hope, A Ferrie, A Hosking, M Job, H Borthwick. Subs: L Thompson, D Voas, A Dodds, B Weir, S Derrick, G Young, H Rutherford, H Bentley.
Referee: Jonny Perriam
Key clash: Ed Hasdell versus Harry Borthwick
Verdict: Refreshed after a rest-week, Southern Knights will travel to Stirling in high spirits after a campaign of substantial progress, while Wolves’ endurance is being tested after playing three games last week and their big win over Future XV seems an awful long time ago following heavy defeats to Heriot’s and Watsonians.
Narrow away win.