HERIOT’S are boosted by the return of regular skipper Ruairidh Leishman for their Super6 Championship clash with the Southern Knights on Saturday afternoon.
The Goldenacre men have already secured a play-off semi-final spot but they have lost twice on the bounce at home, with their last win was away to the Knights in mid-September. As a result, they will be keen to get back to winning ways and their matchday 23 has many changes in it from the one that lost to the Ayrshire Bulls last Saturday.
Leishman wears six having recovered from concussion while, elsewhere in the pack, teenage hooker Elliot Young gets a start, Euan McLaren comes in at tight-head prop and Sam Wallace, starts at openside with Iain Wilson shifting to No 8.
Young prospect Wallace has been patient and “very much deserves his first start”, according to co-coach Fin Gillies.
“Sam is another club graduate from the Heriot’s Blues, and he will join us as a long-term injury replacement for the remainder of the Championship,” Gillies confirmed.
Behind the scrum, Dan King makes his first start of the campaign at 10 in place of Bruce Houston who went off at half-time last week. Cammy Hutchison is released by Edinburgh and he will partner Scotland Sevens man Matt Davidson in midfield. A new-look back three is made up of Sam Pecqueur, Edinburgh’s Jack Blain and Rory Steele.
On the bench, loose-head prop Ali Rogers is on loan from the Bulls, Edinburgh pro Adam McBurney covers hooker, while fellow forward Michael Badenhorst is on loan once again from Watsonians. The listing of only four forwards on the bench shows Heriot’s injury issues in that area.
“We are now very much at the business end of the season and we have no choice but to start building some momentum and belief before the play-offs,” said Gillies. “The performance against Ayrshire Bulls was disappointing, but upon reflection we were more disciplined, we defended better and had more entries into the opposition ‘Gold Zone’ than we had done in the previous two weeks.
“We just continue to be unable to turn opportunities into points, we entered Ayrshire Bulls’ 22 on 13 occasions, but we were unable to capitalise on any of these chances.
“The Knights are improving week on week and we had a very closely contested match at The Greenyards last time. The draft has seen both teams strengthened from the pro game so hopefully we see a bump up in the quality of the rugby played at Goldenacre on Saturday.
“For us to be successful in this Championship we have to turn it on now and we have to be more clinical when we have chances. For too long we have we been frivolous with opportunities to put points on the board and this is a trend we hope to buck here.”
Knights have Edinburgh loosehead-prop Nick Auterac starting in the No 1 jersey, while the capital pro club’s academy player Robbie Deans is on loan from Watsonians and starts on the other side of the scrum.
In between them is another Edinburgh academy prospect in Harri Morris, in the process of converting from the back-row, and he is handed the captaincy. Certainly, the battle between him and Heriot’s number two Young will be interesting as they are exciting, young talents and they are both feisty characters who will not take a backwards step.
Behind the scrum, Scotland cap Jaco van der Walt will be at 10 with Kyle McGhie and Ben Pickles in the midfield after injuries to Mitch Richardson and Korie Winters last week. Edinburgh academy winger Finn Douglas is back from injury to start out wide.
“We all know it’s going to be a tough game at Goldenacre, but are looking forward to the challenge this weekend,” head coach Bruce Ruthven said. “We played very well last week versus Watsonians after a slow start and we know we must start the game strongly here to be in with a shout.
“Heriots took the points a few weeks ago in a close encounter, so were looking to turn the tables.
“Once again, we have a host of Stage Two and Three [academy] players representing the Knights who will be looking forward to testing themselves against the city side. Despite the outcome of recent games, we have showed that we can compete against the top teams, but we must be more accurate and take the opportunities on offer.”
Heriot’s (versus Southern Knights @ Goldenacre, Saturday 4pm): R Steele; J Blain, M Davidson, C Hutchison, S Pecqueur; D King, M McAndrew; J Scott, E Young, E McLaren, F Hastie, R Seydak, R Leishman©, S Wallace, I Wilson. Subs: A McBurney, A Rogers, D Gamble, M Badenhorst, R Jones, J Gelderbloom, J Henry, F Jones.
Southern Knights: K Clark; A Cross, B Pickles, K McGhie, F Douglas; J van der Walt, D Crawford; N Auterac, H Morris©, R Deans, J Campbell, A Ferrie, S Derrick, W Nelson, R Brown. Subs: R Anderson, G Shiells, I Brace, E Demirel, F Renwick, D Colvine, P Anderson, H Rutherford.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Key battle: Elliot Young versus Harri Morris
Verdict: Many changes for both sides here and a hefty dose of pro players available who will make a difference. For the visitors, Nick Auterac and Jaco van der Walt will be busting for game time while it is great to see young Harri Morris asked to skipper the Borderers. They will look to van der Walt to get them into the right areas of the field, but Heriot’s have to start firing soon ahead of the play-offs and this could just be the day they do that in a high scoring, entertaining match.