Cairns: Currie must deal with play-off pressure

Joe Reynolds makes a return for Currie
Joe Reynolds makes a return for Currie
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Currie coach Ben Cairns believes that the key to victory in tomorrow’s BT Premiership play-off semi final will be the ability to cope with the demands of the winner-takes-all nature of the encounter.

Cairns takes his in-form squad to Goldenacre to face a Heriot’s side that secured top spot with several weeks of the standard season to spare. By contrast, Currie clinched fourth place with a dramatic victory over Glasgow Hawks last Saturday.

The attitude of his players was vital to that outcome and Cairns will be urging them to remain calm in the intense 
atmosphere tomorrow, as the sides battle it out for the right to meet Ayr or Melrose in the title decider on April 25.

“This is obviously the biggest game of the season for both clubs and with that comes real pressure,” said Cairns. “The winning team will be the team who are best able to keep their composure, express themselves and execute in the same way they have done for the majority of the season. It sounds simple, but when the stakes are high and the opposition want it just as much as you do this, I believe, is what makes the difference.”

The former Edinburgh and Scotland centre has watched his team develop over the course of the campaign and strike form at the right time to become title contenders.

Assessing that progress, he added: “We started the season with around ten new faces to integrate into the squad. That coupled with the new coaching team, new structures and new calls meant it would always take a bit of time to unlock the potential of the squad we had assembled.

“We were also pretty unlucky with injuries at the start of the season – we have used 43 different players in our first team this year. However, since around Christmas our squad has had a much more settled look to it and I think we are now starting to see the difference that makes.”

And, while he admits that his early days in the role were a step into the unknown, he makes it clear that he never doubted the latent talent at his disposal.

“I definitely believed that we had the potential to challenge, but having potential and delivering are two different things”, he said. “We brought ten new players in and although you do your homework before bringing players in, you are never sure how well they will integrate into the squad. What I did know, however, is we had a really good nucleus of experienced players that have been successful with Currie in the past and a great crop of youngsters who were only going to get better as they gained experience.”

That mix will be vital tomorrow when he also calls upon Glasgow pros Peter Murchie, Mike Cusack and Kevin Bryce, as well as welcoming back Marko Mladenovic from international duty with Cyprus, Joe Reynolds, who missed last week’s game because of his sister’s wedding in New Zealand, is also back in the fray.

Currie team (kick-off 3pm): P Murchie, R Smith, F Efthymiou, R Nelson, C Logan, J Reynolds, R Snedden, J Cox, M Goodwin, G Carson, M Vernel, J Gray, T Brooke, M Peacock, R Weston. Subs: K Bryce, M Cusack, A Hamilton, R Denonain, M Mladenovic, M O’Neil, M McPhillips