THE second half of the regular season in the FOSROC Super6 Championship gets underway on Friday evening when the Southern Knights host Heriot’s at The Greenyards.
With their match against the Ayrshire Bulls postponed twice (so the Bulls could play Glasgow Warriors and then due to the passing of Queen Elizabeth), fifth placed Knights have not played a match since they lost at the Boroughmuir Bears on August 27. That was a 40-28 defeat in Edinburgh, but the fact that they came back from 33-0 down to grab a four try bonus point will have given them hope.
Also giving the Knights hope ahead of this game is the availability of an Edinburgh Rugby trio. Luan De Bruin will continue his recovery from a hamstring injury suffered towards the end of last season with a start at tight-head prop for the Borderers, while Charlie Shiel starts at nine and Edinburgh new boy Jamie Jack, a loose-head prop, should get game time off the bench.
It was always expected that more pros and academy players would be available around this time of the season and Edinburgh youngster Rudi Brown is also in the back-row here.
Along with Shiel behind the scrum, Patrick Anderson is back from injury at 13 and Aidan Cross and Korie Winters are on the wings.
“We are looking forward to Heriot’s coming down to The Greenyards on Friday night,” head coach Bruce Ruthven said. “We are aware it will be a tough test against a strong pack and a backline who, if given the opportunities, will cause a lot of trouble for us.
“It’s important that we make a strong start to the match and compete for the full 80 minutes, showing a more consistent performance. Having players back from injury and the addition of Edinburgh Rugby players has contributed to a good week’s preparation and the players are in buoyant mood – they fully understand the task ahead and must front up to have a chance of winning.
“The players are growing and the youngsters within the squad have gained quality game time to date, so we feel now is the time to kick on over the next few weeks if we can keep the injury list down.”
Heriot’s were bitterly disappointed with their last performance in defeat to Boroughmuir Bears on 2nd September. That 80 minutes at Meggetland was pretty much a microcosm of their inconsistent campaign to date – some brilliant things, but some frustrating things.
In the back-row for the Goldenacre men this week, Callum Anderson replaces the injured Iain Wilson at openside, while the availability of No 8 Jack Mann, who started the season so well, is a big boost.
Ross Jones comes in at 12 in place of Kyle Browne who is on the bench, while winger Rory Steele has recovered from a hamstring injury to start.
Sam Wallace has made an impressive start to the Tennent’s Premiership season for Heriot’s Blues and has been rewarded with a call up to sit on the bench for the Super6 side this week.
Glasgow Hawks scrum-half Euan McAra is also among the replacements on loan as Murdo McAndrew was injured in training.
“Our performance against Boroughmuir Bears was far below the levels we expect of ourselves and it was a long week off trying to figure out what went wrong,” co-coach Fin Gillies said. “We have had to be really honest with ourselves and have collectively agreed that we need to reset and demand more from this group moving forward.
“Southern Knights have had an extended break due to their fixture versus Ayrshire Bulls being rescheduled, so no doubt Bruce and his team have used this extra time wisely and will be well prepared for this fixture.
“Heriot’s do not have fond memories of playing at The Greenyards, the last two away trips have been the narrowest and most painful of defeats.
“We are under no illusion of how important this game is, we need to get ourselves back on track with a good performance and start to build some momentum for the last five weeks of the Championship.”
Southern Knights (versus Heriot’s @ The Greenyards, Friday 7.45pm): D Colvine; A Cross, P Anderson, R Chalmers, K Winters; C Scott, C Shiel; G Shiels, R Anderson©, L De Bruin, J Campbell, A Ferrie, R Brown, W Nelson, S Derrick. Substitutes: F Renwick, J Jack, M Mbaud, E Demirel, J Miller, D Crawford, K McGhie, F Douglas.
Heriot’s: D King; R Steele, N Godsmark, R Jones, S Pecqueur; B Houston, J Gelderbloom; J Scott, M Liness, E McLaren, F Hastie, R Seydak, R Leishman©, C Anderson, J Mann. Subs: E Young, S Cessford, D Gamble, S Wallace, K Browne, E McAra, B Kay, F Jones.
Referee: Hollie Davidson.
Key battle: Luan De Bruin versus Josh Scott.
Verdict: The Knights have not played for a few weeks, but the extended rest may have done their stretched squad some good, while their fightback to claim a bonus point against the Bears allied to their pro allocation will help bolster confidence. Heriot’s have struggled for consistency and they will want to bounce back with a win on the road here. Pro availability may just swing it for the hosts.