SOUTHERN KNIGHTS coach Bruce Ruthven has backed his side to bounce back from their opening weekend defeat at Heriot’s when they host Watsonians in round two of the 2022 Super6 Sprint Series at The Greenyards tomorrow afternoon (2pm kick-off).
“We will need to be better individually this week if we’re going to compete over the 80 minutes,” he said. “We understand the challenge ahead but we have had a very productive week’s training and the boys and in good spirits.
“It’s always great game against Watsonians and we know this Saturday won’t be anything different. It’s our first home competitive game of the season so there will be a good support for the Knights on an afternoon everyone is looking forward too.
Iain Sim is named on the left wing for the Borderers, with Billy Wara moving to outside centre and Paul Eti Slater dropping to the bench. Wallace Nelson will make his debut at open-side flanker having been a key player for Currie Chieftains during the recent Premiership season, Robbie Chalmers is set for a debut as a replacement and Bruce Riddell once again provides emergency cover at loose-head prop on loan from Selkirk.
“All four of our Scotland U20 players will be involved on Saturday in Rudi Brown, Murray Redpath, Corey Bowker and Kieran Clark,” added Ruthven. “Ben Afshar also falls into the under-20 category and is pushing Murray Redpath hard for a starting spot. The average age of squad this weekend is 23.
Watsonians have 12 of their 31-strong squad unavailable through either injury or call-ups to Edinburgh or Scotland 7s, but head coach Fergus Pringle says he is comfortable with testing the strength in depth at his disposal. “We’re still fielding a really competitive match day 23 with only three changes to the starting team from last week,” he reasoned.
Lewis Berg makes a well-time return from injury to replace the unavailable Joe Reynolds in midfield, while Murray Scott takes over the No 9 jersey, with Roan Frostwick is one of two scrum-halves on the bench alongside Edinburgh pro Charlie Shiel. In the pack, Campbell Wilson starts at openside and Harry Fisher drops to the bench.
All three front-row replacements – Matt Pritchard (a Scots qualified South African hooker), Cole Imrie (Edinburgh Accies) and Dan Gamble (Heriot’s Super6/Academy) – have been brought in on loan as emergency cover.
“I just think you have to respect the Knights/Melrose as a club for what they have achieved,” added Pringle. “Everyone is talking about how they are going to struggle but I’m not sure I buy into that. If you look at their forwards, beside the tight-head spot, they aren’t far off their starting pack from last season. In the backs they’ve had a few changes, but they’ve brought some good young players in and they’ve got some very good players there already.
“They showed against Heriot’s last week that they are a dangerous counter-attacking team and have real attacking intent. “Their set-piece will be very strong and we’ll need to be ready for the way they challenge the breakdown area.
“They have changed the way they play a bit, if you look at how they defend, so they are a team in transition but they have enough players there who know how to win. It’s a challenging place to go and play and they’ll be up for it.”
Southern Knights: K Clark; P Anderson, B Wara, C Grieve, I Sim; N Chamberlain, M Redpath; G Shiells, R Anderson©, I Brace, D Redpath, D Suddon, R Knott, W Nelson, H Borthwick. Subs: F Renwick, C Bowker, B Riddell, R Brown, A Ferrie, P Slater, B Afshar, R Chalmers.
Watsonians: D Coetzer; L Macpherson, L Berg, A Guthrie, R Daley; J Baggott, M Scott; S Gunn, C Davies, G Scougall, L Ball, K van Niekerk, S Cecil, C Wilson, I Moody. Subs: M Pritchard, C Imrie, D Gamble, K Watt, K Main, H Fisher, C Shiel, R Frostwick.
Referee: Ian Kenny
Key clash: Harry Borthwick versus Iain Moody
Verdict: A return to their old stomping ground for Watsonians No 8 Iain Moody and stand-off Jason Baggott, and both players are likely to have a big say in where the league points end up, with field position and line-out possession key to success in Super6. The Edinburgh side got what they needed out of last week’s game and have a settled squad, despite a dozen unavailabilities. The Borderers have plenty of firepower in the pack, but look fragile behind.