Currie coach Ben Cairns believes the Malleny Park side will be even more motivated this season as his players seek to bounce back from an agonising end to the last campaign.
Currie led Heriot’s entering the dying seconds of the BT Premiership semi-final and appeared to have the game won when the ball was booted into touch. However, the players had misheard the referee and there was time for one more play. Heriot’s took full advantage, snatching the victory with a drop goal and going on to win the title.
The coach insists his players have learned from that setback, saying, “Obviously last season’s play-off match was a very hard pill to swallow. However, in a strange way it has given the guys all the motivation they need to make sure we come back this season stronger than ever. You couldn’t ask for a better learning experience on how to win crunch matches and the players have come back hungrier than ever to develop and put things right this season.”
In addition to the departure of assistant coach Fergus Pringle, Cairns has lost the services of hooker Matt Goodwin, back rower Travis Brooke, centre Fidias Efthymiou and stand-off James Semple, whose boot was a vital factor in Currie’s challenge last time. However, he has welcomed back Fergus Scott, who captained the club’s youth side to the Scottish title before a spell in the professional ranks with Glasgow Warriors. Also making a reappearance at the club is Jamie Forbes, who has spent the past three years playing in Australia.
Meanwhile, having returned to the top flight after winning the BT National Division One title last season, Watsonians will be desperate to start the campaign well. Myreside coach Marcus Di Rollo has been active in the transfer market over the summer and has bolstered his squad with a clutch of seasoned individuals who should enhance the chances of survival and could even help Sonians make an impact in the top half of the table.
Among the new arrivals are front row duo Ewan McQuillin and Sean Crombie, both of whom have sampled life in the professional ranks. And Di Rollo has added further experience by luring Euan Dods and Craig Borthwick from Gala.
The coach will be conscious that the opening weeks of the league programme are traditionally the toughest for promoted sides as they adapt to the greater intensity of the higher level. A slow start can prove fatal to a team’s bid for survival.
On the other side of Colinton Road, Peter Wright has taken on the role of coach at Boroughmuir, the club where he built his reputation as a no-nonsense prop who went on to represent Scotland and the British & Irish Lions.
Wright has lost some of Muir’s senior players including Crombie to Sonians and Iain Moody to Melrose, but has sought to offset that with signings that include James Bett from Selkirk and South African Matthew Tweddle who joins from Falkirk.
Wright, whose coaching record boasts a league and cup double with Glasgow Hawks, has opted not to name a team captain and instead will take the unusual step of nominating an individual on a game-by-game basis.
Across the Capital, Heriot’s will be the team all the others will aim to usurp. Premiership and cup winners last season, the Goldenacre men have suffered the fate that befalls many successful sides, with two key men moving to professional contracts elsewhere.
For the coaching team of Phil Smith, Steve Lawrie and Jamie Parker, the departure of back rower Jason Hill and skipper Jack Turley to professional rugby south of the border is a mixed blessing, with the progression of the players being a sign of success, albeit one that leaves major gaps in the squad.
Turley is replaced as captain by Rory Carmichael, while Smith has recruited several individuals, among them Scotland age group caps Gavin Parker and Alex Hagart, as well as French brothers Thomas and Arnie Lapeyre, who are less experienced than the players they are replacing but have the potential to keep Heriot’s among the challengers this season.
The first round of BT Premiership fixtures takes place on Saturday.