Rugby: Heriot’s star of Africa aims to shine at Currie

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Heriot’s forward CJ Osazuwa returns to Premiership One rugby tomorrow fresh from making an imprint on the expanding international sevens circuit.

The 27-year-old Edinburgh University social policies and sociology graduate swaps the Confederation of African Rugby tournament in Marrakech for Currie’s Malleny Park determined to draw on experiences of a lifetime.

The second row forward had set sights on trying to gain a sevens cap for Scotland where he has lived since aged six but just as he was coming to terms with the realisation it was never going to happen his native Nigeria began setting out plans to develop the game.

As a consequence of having been immersed in the summer sevens circuit with various select teams he was invited to link up with the team for Marrakech where he was “very pleasantly surprised by the standards our scratch outfit achieved.”

Pre-tournament training was conducted in London before the squad flew out to Morocco. There they emerged from a preliminary group which contained Morocco, Senegal and Burkina Faso before finishing overall third behind Morocco and Tunisia.

In the other half of the draw were the likes of Mali and Ivory Coast and next year the top four North African countries will compete against the top four from the Southern Africa event.

Osazuwa added: “I feel my rugby has been enhanced by competing at national level with a side that included one player who had previously been in the England sevens system while another two of our team could have fitted into the Scotland set-up.

“In addition we have unearthed a player who can run 10.2 for the 100 metres so, with regular sessions, the aim is to do well when we make our debut at the prestigious Dubai tournament next year.”

To those who might look down on the North African tournament the top team Morocco were able to call on 12 professionals either in French rugby union clubs or rugby league.

“I was asked to make myself available for Nigeria’s 15-a-side match against Mauritius earlier this year but had to turn it down although I certainly plan to play in future,” said Osazuwa.

“That kind of commitment will, however, have to be balanced with establishing a business and helping a Heriot’s side who, I’m convinced, are on the up. I have the utmost respect for previous coach Bob McKillop but Graham Marshall is trying to harden us up and it is going down well with the squad.

“On my return I watched a video of last week’s (23-46) defeat by Melrose and saw Heriot’s doing well for an hour during which they looked the better team only to be undone by the odd wrong decision at a crucial time. If everything clicks there is no question we can upset Currie.”

A late addition to the Heriot’s ranks is likely to be Scotland flanker Alan MacDonald on release from Edinburgh to make his way back from injury.

Former champions Currie give a start to Steve Burton whose return to the bench from a stint in South Africa has coincided with the team’s two 50-point victories over the past fortnight. Burton takes the place of skipper Mark Cairns who retired hurt at Hawks last week.

Edinburgh Accies entertain Hawick with a side showing a first start on the left wing for Jake Knight while Gavin Douglas returns at centre to take on his former team.

Accies were beaten at Dundee last week and coach Simon Cross said: “Mistakes in or own half cost us the game against Dundee. They were very clinical and made the most of the possession they had. We need to be much more accurate this week.”

Hawick list Edinburgh centre John Houston returning from concussion against Cardiff. Houston said: “I didn’t feel too bad on the actual evening when I came off but then I tried to train during the week I had to stop. I struggled a bit with headaches for a few weeks but Monday of this week saw me back in full training.”

Boroughmuir have been looking inwardly as they prepare to stake a 100 per cent away record at champions Melrose fresh from losing 29-42 at home to Gala. Skipper Sean Crombie is in no doubt why the Meggetlanders slumped after the interval telling the club’s website: “It’s too many missed tackles and we did not make it hard for them. Our all-round game has to improve. Nobody wants to feel like this again. We need to go to Melrose and pull off something big. We need to stop this one week on, one week off approach.”