Melrose targeting top-four place on return to rugby’s Scottish Premiership after five years away, says co-head coach Iain Chisholm

Southern Knights defence coach Iain Chisholm briefing his side ahead of their 24-12 loss at home in Melrose to Watsonians earlier this month (Photo: Craig Murray)Southern Knights defence coach Iain Chisholm briefing his side ahead of their 24-12 loss at home in Melrose to Watsonians earlier this month (Photo: Craig Murray)
Southern Knights defence coach Iain Chisholm briefing his side ahead of their 24-12 loss at home in Melrose to Watsonians earlier this month (Photo: Craig Murray)
Melrose are targeting a top-four finish rather than just seeking to avoid relegation following their return to rugby’s Scottish Premiership in the autumn after five years away, according to their co-head coach Iain Chisholm.

The Borderers are one of two clubs restored to top-flight status as part of the fallout of the scrapping of the Fosroc Super Series semi-professional franchises, along with Edinburgh’s Watsonians, this year and they’ll be going up against two other Super6 outfits – Ayr, promoted as 2024’s Scottish National League Division 1 champions, and Heriot’s, 2022’s second-tier table-toppers – in a division expanded to 12 teams for one season only.

Three teams instead of the usual one will be going down next year but Chisholm, currently also defence coach for Melrose’s Super Series franchise, Southern Knights, is hoping to see his side challenging for a play-off place at the other end of the table rather than looking to avoid a rapid return to from whence they came.

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A top-four finish would see them picking up where they left off as they finished fourth in 2019, on 62 points from 18 fixtures, a year on from winning the premiership title for the tenth time with a haul of 73 points, and that’s what they want, says Chisholm, appointed as head coach at the Greenyards in June last year.

“It’s going to be a real challenge for us, but we’ve got a pretty exciting team and we’re not just going up to look to stay up,” said the 34-year-old.

“We’re looking to challenge for the play-offs, and if we can get anywhere close to that, we’ll regard it as having been a really successful season.

“We’re not there just to try and stay in the league – we’re there to try to compete.”

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Recruiting his Knights colleague Scott Wight, attack coach there since spring last year, as co-head coach will be crucial in helping Melrose contend with an expected rise in standards, due to an influx of Super6 players, since they last played premiership rugby, according to Chisholm.

“The way that we’ve worked together within the Knights set-up has been really positive,” he said.

“There are things that Scotty does really well that I don’t – he’s a good recruiter and he’s a great salesman.

“One of the real strengths of our squad last season was our attack and Scotty’s just going to come away from the Knights and settle into running attack for the club side.

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“We’re working really well together and I’m looking forward to continuing that.

“It’s good that we can bounce ideas off each other. Neither of us is afraid of telling the other that’s something’s a rubbish idea. We don’t get upset, and that’s the great thing about it.

“The reality of the role is that it wouldn’t be sustainable for me to be doing it on my own if we’re going to run the same programme as we did last year.

“We want to try to be as professional as possible and kick on a bit more than we did last year and that will require us to add a bit of depth and strength to our squad, which Scotty’s doing, and we also need to adapt our kick strategy and get better in and around our set-piece. I think we’re all aware of that.”

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Melrose will be one of four Borders teams in next season’s premiership, along with Kelso, Selkirk and Hawick, table-toppers last time round but denied a 14th title by a 26-24 play-off final loss to Currie Chieftains at the start of May.

Since being kicked out of the top flight in 2019 as part of the creation of the Super6, they’ve managed three top-four finishes in National 1, ending up third in 2023 and fourth in 2022 and 2020, prior to placing fifth last time out.

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