THESE are hard times for the Southern Knights Super6 franchise, with last week’s demolition of 62-12 in the hands of the Ayrshire Bulls, focusing on the vulnerability of a young team that lost nine key players to other franchises and more than half during the winter break. a dozen others who either retired or returned to the club game.
It was their fourth defeat since the start of the Super6 Sprint series last month Rob Moffat – Former head coach of Edinburgh and Melrose, who shared the role of director of rugby in The Greenyards Colin Meager from summer 2020 – insists that it has “half full glass “ a look at the current situation of the team.
He does not pretend that everything is in full bloom in the garden. After Covid has invested in two money-spinning sevens tournaments, finances must be worrying and a lot of work needs to be done to support [or at least reduce opposition to] The Knights concept in both Melrose and the wider Borders rugby community, but the still optimistic Moffat believes the tide can be reversed.
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“These are interesting times … and it was hard to accept,” Moffat admits with brilliant restraint when asked to think about last Saturday’s defeat. “We lost a few players [during the winter break] and the staff is probably younger than we would like, but we look at it as being here to develop players. While no one wants to see such results because it won’t help anyone, we believe these young guys can learn from their experiences and come back stronger.
“It sounds like an excuse, but not many guys were involved against the Bulls – we had about a dozen players – so we were really light and young,” he adds. “We didn’t win three weeks before that, but it wasn’t much. So I think the circumstances were against us, and this may happen again, because we have no experience there that we could have used last season, which means that if we lose two or three of our older boys, it will be very difficult fairly quickly. .
“I will also point out that we came across a good team Ayrshire Bulls, which played very well that day. We have to take medicine and come back stronger against Boroughmuir Bears next weekend – even though there are no easy matches in this league. “
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From the Knights’ team on the day of the match, which they played against the Bulls in last year’s final, in close pursuit Euan McLaren (left to Heriot), prop with a free head Shaun Gunn (Watsonians), second row Angus Runciman (Melrose Club XV), No. 8 Iain Moody (Watsons), scrum-halves Murdo McAndrew (heroic) a Cam Jones (Ayrshire Bulls), stand-off Jason Baggott (Watsons), center Nyle Godsmark (Heriot’s), pterosaur Sam Pecqueur (Heriot’s) and a substitute farmer / central midfielder Andrew Mitchell (Hawick) are no longer involved.
With injuries, exclusions and other unavailability that make up the second tier Dan Suddon and Dalton Redpathback row Allan Ferrie and Harry Borthwickand the outermost defender Jacob HenryThere were only seven of the 22 knights who entered the field in this final at DAM Health Stadium available for a match last Saturday against the same opponent. [Patrick Anderson, Billy Wara, Cameron Scott, Grant Shiells, Fraser Renwick, Russell Anderson and Ruairidh Knott].
Moffat admits that the lack of clarity about what the future will look like was a key factor behind the exodus of players before the tournament, but stressed that stopping and evaluating at the time was a responsible approach.
“I think the players will tell you that they were not happy with how the club handled it,” he says. “When [former head coach] Rob Chrystie When we left, we didn’t want to put together a team until we got a coach, and the club thought: “Where are we here financially?” So we really wanted to think about whether we could do it, and of course it was disturbing for the players, but it’s a reflection of where we were at the time – and I think that was the right thing to do.
“It didn’t take us long to go through the process – the financiers went through everything and came up with the plan – but we lost 10 or 12 players. We offered them contracts for what they had before, but they had a period of uncertainty and decided to go elsewhere.
“Good luck – this is a modern game – I will not criticize anyone for doing what is best for his career. It’s complicated life this year, but I’m a half-glass guy, so I see it as a great opportunity. We are here to develop players to advance to the next level, and having 60 to 70 percent of our team under the age of 22 means that there are a lot of guys who can do it.
Moffat says the club came out of this period of introspection and was assured that he was doing the right thing.
“We would do it again,” he confirms. “I remember when [Super6] was raised for the first time, I was not actively involved in the club at the time, but they asked me and a few other good old people together to find out what we thought, and I immediately said: “If there is a Super6, we want to be in it”. That’s the mentality of this club: we want to be the best we can and play at the highest possible level. “
However, there has been a change in philosophy towards a more “one-club” approach involving the youth section, club parties and the Super6 entity, which seems like a sensible first step towards giving the new structure real roots.
Moffat recognizes that gaining participation from the wider Borders rugby community is a much bigger – and more complicated – challenge, and believes that actions on this front will speak louder than words.
“I’ll talk to anyone, but I won’t sleep because of it and I won’t waste energy on the same old conversations,” he shrugs. “Every Borders club has good people and we know they work like hell to keep their club, so I respect it’s their whole focus, but I’m a player.”
“Andrew Mitchell is a good example. I don’t think he was treated well, and I think it’s a damn shame if it means the door is now closed so he can be tested at a higher level. If he wants to play for the next 10 years for Hawick in the Premiership, then it’s pretty fair because he’s a good standard and he’ll be a great player for them, but he’s the type of person we should look at and push for. to see how far he can go.
“One of the critics of Super6 in general is that a lot of guys don’t play, but that doesn’t happen here. There is no way for the Southern Knights to build their best team every week, and this is difficult because punters want to see their team in the best shape every week. But that’s not what we’re doing here. This was not in the original Super6 document. So every young player who is here will play. He will not sit on a bench or in the stands. Some may not cut it, but everyone gets a chance
“Another thing I will say is that we are not trying to get a player without communicating with his club and saying: “We’re evaluating this guy and we’d like to give him a chance.” And if someone from Selkirk came to the Southern Knights and it didn’t work out, Melrose shouldn’t try to keep him, he should head back to Philiphaugh. It must be a two-way process.
“Similarly, if the best Southern Knights player this year is good enough, we will push him further, and if Edinburgh or Glasgow do not want him, then we will look at the championship side in the south or the team in France. because that’s what it’s about … to give players opportunities. “
First, the Boroughmuir Bears team buzzing after their first victory of the season outside against Stirling County in their final appearance will host the Knights next Friday night. Winning doesn’t cast out the painful tumbling demons of last weekend, but the process can begin.
Silver Saturday: The women’s club match in Murrayfield comes to the fore