AS Jonny Gray stands by to become Scotland’s youngest international rugby forward since Edinburgh Accies’ Hamish Inglis 62 years ago, there is justifiable pride out Currie way at helping to produce the 19-year-old prospect.
Gray lines up on the bench for tomorrow’s viagogo Autumn Test as the Dark Blues take on the might of South Africa.
Just a year ago, the second row, fresh out of school, was getting his first taste of Premiership rugby at Malleny Park having commuted from Glasgow, who gave him a pro debut in the annual Christmas derby with Edinburgh.
It was an experience he recalled in fond terms while sitting alongside older brother Richie at the team announcement – and the feeling is mutual. Currie coach Ally Donaldson said: “My only regret is that injury has prevented another of our former players, Matt Scott, getting in the squad as well.
“Right away, Jonny impressed everybody at our club as a special player who could go all the way. In fact, quite a number of our players were looking to place bets at just how quickly Jonny and his brother would form the Scottish second row.”
Gray got his Currie debut from off the bench in a 20-37 home defeat by Gala, but he was soon helping his new colleagues embark on a run involving victories over Stirling County and eventual champions Ayr as well as drawing with Heriot’s. Donaldson added: “In the games he played for us Jonny showed a great attitude.
“He was keen to learn and a real student of the game as well as having all the line-out skills.”
It is a measure of the younger Gray’s willingness that as an age-group internationalist he would pester senior players for knowledge about how to formulate line-out tactics on the pitch.
“When he came to us Jonny was already showing the ability to study opposition line-outs; there was a maturity that belies his age. If he gets on tomorrow against South Africa there will certainly be a cheer go up in our clubhouse.”
Jonny Gray is quick to give Currie credit for his development.
“I learned a lot from coaches such as Ally Donaldson and Graham Hogg, while, before that, when I went out to New Zealand under the Macphail Scholarship, I was fortunate to be taken under the wing of All Black forward Reuben Thorne.”
A full Murrayfield debut beckons also for centre Duncan Taylor who, despite getting a two minute call and – on his own admission – failing to touch the ball against Japan last weekend, found the experience useful.
“It was maybe frustrating for my 12 family members who came along,” recalled Taylor, who was educated at Davidson’s Mains Primary. “However, getting on the pitch has given me a taste of what to expect.”
Where Taylor also has insight is through playing alongside a posse of South Africans at Saracens. “What they’ve taught me is about the Springbok mentality,” said Taylor who was called up to Scotland’s summer tour and was capped against Samoa and Italy from off the bench.
He added: “South Africans are invariably big guys who work very hard for each other. That’s their way. I also know South Africa are a very structured side who put together a game plan very well. As opposed to last week against Japan there will be a lot more kicking.
“The aim is to throw a few spanners in their works and see what happens.”
There are only five survivors from the Scotland squad who played in the victory over South Africa in 2010, including prop Moray Low, who was on the bench that day.
Low knows that what must be curbed is the visitors renowned rolling maul if Scotland are to prevail again.
Wales were marched back at an alarming rate on one occasion last week and Low said: “We have our protocols when it comes to dealing with mauls and we’ve been working in that area in training to take that away from them.
“It is about not letting them set themselves up and not letting them play the game they want to play.”
Scotland will also want to move the visitors around the field. “They are a big physical team who like scrummaging and mauling. We have to match them.”