Gray’s machinery props up Springboks

Richie Gray with his 'Rhino Maul King'/ 'The Collision King'.

Richie Gray with his 'Rhino Maul King'/ 'The Collision King'.

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If the Springboks defeat Scotland next month, much of the credit could be due to one of the best-known figures in Borders rugby.

Former Gala captain and coach Richie Gray normally divides his time between teaching the Base rugby course at Borders College and developing new rugby training aids.

The last few years have seen his profile on the international rugby stage rise thanks to an invention he designed in his garage. Gray spent four years developing the ‘Collision King’, which was launched in 2011 by Rhino Rugby.

Gray’s machine allows players to practice correct body position and technique for the breakdown phases of play and both international and professional teams around the world are now using it.

At the moment however, his college work is on hold while he is on sabbatical with South Africa’s Springboks, working as a breakdown consultant for much of the second half of this year.

Speaking to radio presenter and former Scotland and British Lions player, John Beattie on the latter’s BBC Scotland programme on Thursday, in what Beattie said was the only interview Gray was being allowed to give by the South African Rugby Union (SARU), the Gala rugby specialist said he had originally been invited to South Africa for two weeks back in January by SARU performance unit boss, Rassie Erasmus.

“It was to look at certain areas of game with their super 15 coaches; after that things snowballed a little bit and they wanted me back down,” explained Gray.

Gray told Beattie that until someone visited South Africa, it was hard to realise just how much the fortunes of the Springboks mattered to the entire country.

“This team pretty much dictates the mood of the nation. It’s been a massive build-up to this game at Ellis Park,” he said of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship final against the All Blacks at the weekend.

Asked the obvious question by Beattie of how he felt about coaching a team due to come up against Scotland next month, Gray was unfazed.

“It’s professional sport. Look at Scotland - they’ve got an Australian, will have a New Zealander shortly and have an Italian scrum coach.

“That’s the world of rugby and when it comes to rugby coaching, you do the best you can with team you are with.

Although South Africa lost 27-38 to New Zealand, All Blacks captain Richie McCaw said he hadn’t see the Springboks play with such an attacking attitude for a long time, so perhaps Gray’s influence is paying off.

And perhaps the more pertinent question that should be asked, is how the Scottish Rugby Union has let slip such a highly regarded technical specialist that other rugby unions clearly value so highly?