THE Southern Knights’ Super6 Championship season will come to an end this coming weekend prior to the knock-out phase, but one of the most positive things about their campaign has been the number of youngsters the coaching staff have given exposure to at a part-time professional level.
The Borderers reached the final in 2021 before losing out to the Ayrshire Bulls, however a long injury list from day one – and a younger squad in general than some opponents – was always going to make it hard to compete for a play-off spot this time around.
Currently in fifth, they are five points ahead of bottom side Stirling and will want to end things on a high note while up-and-comers like Sam Derrick will be keen to take advantage of one last opportunity to impress as Scotland under-20 selection looms on the horizon.
Back-row player Derrick, 19, has been a key player for the Knights over the last couple of months while other young members of the squad like Keiran Clark, Aidan Cross, Ben Pickles, Finn Douglas, Harri Morris, Jamie Campbell, Rudi Brown (the last four all Edinburgh Rugby academy players) and Harris Rutherford (on loan from Gala) have all stepped up to the plate when asked.
Derrick’s form has clearly caught the eye of a few interested observers because recently the stage two Scottish Rugby academy member has been up at Murrayfield and the DAM Health Stadium training with Edinburgh’s full-time academy players from time to time.
“Normally I train in Gala for my academy work and that is very beneficial, but getting the chance to train with the full-time guys and see how they go about their work has been helpful for me too,” Derrick said. “And although the results have not all gone our way, I have loved being part of the Knights squad during this Championship season.
“Bruce Ruthven [head coach at the Greenyards] and the senior players told the younger boys at the start of the competition to go out and grab our opportunities and I like to think we have done that. There have been some really tough days, but the team spirit has been excellent, the heads have never gone down.
“When you are a young player you learn all the time, whether it is at training, in a win, or in a defeat, and I like to think I have learnt a lot since the summer.
“In recent weeks we have also had the chance to play with and against professional players and that also has great benefits because it allows you to test yourself to see where you are at.
“I have just tried to do my bit for the team and I think we have shown in the wins over the Wolves and, more recently, against Heriot’s that we are a proud bunch of boys who enjoy representing the Knights.”
Having missed out on selection in the Scotland under-20 squad for the Six Nations (not helped by an untimely collarbone injury), and then the summer trip to Italy earlier this year, Derrick’s next aim is to make the age-grade squad this time around.
So, how did the lad from Lauder get into rugby?
“I started playing in the Melrose mini section when I was in P3 before stopping to play football for a while,” Derrick explains. “Football is the bigger sport locally in Lauder, but by P7 I was back playing rugby and all through my days at Earlston High School – well, until the pandemic came – I played for the Melrose age-grade teams.
“I was lucky enough to represent Scotland at under-16 level in a tournament in Wales while I also went to the national under-17 training camp to Valladolid in Spain.
“In my final year at school [2020/21], rugby was pretty much wiped out, so I was very keen to get back playing regularly last season and it was great to play for the Melrose 1st XV in National League Division One.
“It was a great introduction to senior rugby for me and although I broke my collarbone, I was asked to make the step up to the Knights.”
Derrick was back fully fit midway through the Sprint Series which ran from April to June, and a few games at the tail end of that mini competition allowed him to get fully up to speed before the Championship.
“It has been great to play regularly and get into my stride at this level in recent times,” he said. “Last year when not playing I was studying at Borders College while now I am doing a lot more coaching with the Melrose age-grade teams and I really enjoy that and it keeps me busy.
“The club has a load of girls and boys who are keen to progress with their rugby and if I can help them do that and they enjoy the sport as much as I do then that would be great.”
An example of Melrose’s youth set-up – and their link-up with the Knights – will be on show this coming Monday when an all girls rugby development day will be held at The Greenyards as part of the half-term holidays.