HAVING shown admirable fighting spirit to claim a draw away to Stirling County last weekend, the Southern Knights are back in familiar surroundings on the recently installed 3G surface at The Greenyards tomorrow evening [5.30pm kick-off] to take on an Ayrshire Bulls side playing away from home for the first time this season.
Knights head coach Rob Chrystie has rewarded the pack which finished the game last week by selecting them almost en masse for this encounter, with the only change being Neil-Irvine Hess starting at blindside flanker in place of Rory Darge. Russell Anderson captains the side from hooker, and the experienced Bruce Colvine gets a start at scrum-half.
“The Ayrshire Bulls had a good win last weekend and will be in confident mood,” said Chrystie. “They have experience across their squad and are sure to try and impose themselves early on. We know this is going to be a hugely physical test that will require a huge amount of effort and are looking forward to the challenge.
Some powerful and experienced forwards on the bench – front-rowers Fraser Renwick, Grant Shiells and Ewan McQuillan, second-row warhorse James Head and former Saracens Academy prospect Dylan Taylor – will be keen to make a big impact later in the match.
Meanwhile, Bulls head coach Peter Murchie was encouraged by his team’s performance when picking up their maiden win of the campaign against Boroughmuir Bears last weekend, but insists that should be viewed by his players as nothing more than a first step in the right direction.
“We were improved last week but we know that we can still deliver much more, we need to show the same if not more effort and also be more accurate in certain areas of the game to pick up the win,” he said.
Murchie has added some Argentinean beef to the pack in the shape of tight-head prop Nicolas Griffiths (who arrived at Millbrae via a stint in Spain), while last year’s Scotland Under-20s playmaker Ross Thompson gets a run at ten in place of the vastly experienced Frazier Climo, and the release from Glasgow Warriors of Stafford McDowall and Robbie Nairn adds bite to the three-quarters line.
Back-five forwards Marshall Sykes and Blair Macpherson, scrum-half Harry Warr, Climo and Matt Davidson (who moved back to Ayr during the summer after spending last summer with London Scottish) could catch the eye for the visitors off the bench.
Southern Knights: C Whyte; G Wood, P Anderson, J Baggott, J Jenkins; T Galbraith, B Colvine; S Gunn, R Anderson©, C Young, A Runciman, D Redpath, N Irvine-Hess, R Knott, I Moody. Subs: F Renwick, G Shiells, E McQuillan, J Head, D Taylor, S Hutchison, I Sim, N Sweeney.
Ayrshire Bulls: O Smith; R Nairn, T Beary, S McDowall, C Gossman; R Thompson, D Armstrong; G Reid, S Kitchen, N Griffiths, F Hastie, L Morrice, G Bordill, G Geldenhuys, P McCallum©. Subs: L Anderson, M Scott, R Sayce, M Sykes, B Macpherson, H Warr, F Climo, M Davidson.