Heriot’s coach Phil Smith will be an interested bystander when the BT Premiership gets under way tomorrow without the defending champions who will be on Charity Shield duty against Boroughmuir at BT Murrayfield (kick off 11.45am).
The Goldenacre men will launch their defence against Currie next week. While he knows that rivals will be desperate to topple the title holders, Smith is more concerned about the performance of his side. “The signings we made were just to add to what we already had. We haven’t really lost anybody, so all they are doing is bringing huge competition which means more pressure maybe, makes them work a little bit harder, keeps them looking over their shoulder, and that’s great,” he said.
“If we play as well as we can, I think there is less pressure on us. The pressure is on us to play as well as we can. If the other team is better than that then I will hold my hands up.”
Smith has made several significant signings and, of the new arrivals, South African Roan Van Heerden was an imposing physical presence in pre-season, while the coach also has high expectations for the other newcomers in his squad.
Across the city, Boroughmuir coach Bruce Aitchison has also attracted several new faces including Polish international prop Craig Bachurzewski, back rower Callum Reid who was previously on the brink of a professional contract, and Edinburgh Rugby Academy players Jake Kerr and Jack Cosgrove. He also welcomes back strong running centre Alex Cox from a season long injury.
However, Boroughmuir, who open their league programme at Ayr next week, have been hit by the departures of several key men, with Trent Sutton, Adam Best, Mike Entwhistle, Jonny Latta, Magnus Bradbury, Sam Bingham, Sep Visser and Malcolm Clapperton having left the club for various reasons.
Nevertheless, the BT Cup winners go into the new campaign in good spirits, with Aitchison saying: “The players are desperate to get the season started and there is a real desire to improve on last season after a tough return to the top league. The potential of the squad was seen from the turn of the year resulting in the Cup Final win that has given everyone a huge buzz, with a return to Murrayfield the reward. The competition in the Premier League is very tough and we want to get off to a good start and build momentum.”
That is also the objective of Currie coach Ben Cairns, who is relishing his side’s BT Premiership opener at home to Stirling County tomorrow (kick-off 1.15pm).
“We know we’ve improved from last year but we also know everyone else has probably improved. Until you start playing you don’t really know where you stand,” said Cairns. “We’ve got ambitions to be better than we were last season. Last season we got to the play offs so we are aiming for that again this season.”
Currie’s squad is laced with burgeoning talent, and Cairns is excited by teenagers Charlie Shiel, Stephen Ainslie, Hamish Bain, Luke Crosbie, Ben Robbins and Thomas Gordon. The latter, the nephew of the club’s former president John Muir, has impressed Cairns during pre-season.
The energy of the youngsters at his disposal is balanced by the presence of club stalwarts John Cox, Richard Snedden and skipper Ross Weston.
“It’s a young squad but I would say we have an experienced team,” added Cairns. “There is good strength in depth but that strength comes from the younger boys pushing the older boys. It’s up to us at coaches to get the balance right week in, week out.”
THE CAPITAL CLUBS GUNNING FOR GLORY IN BT PREMIERSHIP
Head Coach: Bruce Aitchison
Captain: Andy Rose
Last season: Eighth, but were BT Cup winners
New signing to watch: Callum Reid
Head Coach: Ben Cairns
Captain: Ross Weston
Last season: Fourth – beaten in play-off semi-finals
New signing to watch: Thomas Gordon
Head Coach: Phil Smith
Captain: Jack Turley
Last season: BT Premiership champions
New signing to watch: Roan Van Heerden