Rugby’s Southern Knights could go south if motion approved

Fosroc Super6 side the Southern Knights could be hit for six if a motion backed by another Borders club gets the thumbs-up at the Scottish Rugby Union’s next annual general meeting.

Friday, 11th June 2021, 3:08 pm
The Southern Knights playing Heriot's at the Greenyards in Melrose in December 2019 (Photo: John Devlin)
The Southern Knights playing Heriot's at the Greenyards in Melrose in December 2019 (Photo: John Devlin)

Hawick are supporting a call by Glasgow Hutchesons' Aloysians for the new Super6 competition to be scrapped to make way for a revival of the sport’s old inter-district championship next year.

That motion, to be debated at the sport’s governing body’s annual meeting on a date in August yet to be set, has triggered the necessary ten supporting letters from full member clubs or associated bodies after being put forward by GHA and seconded by the Greens.

Officials at Hawick’s Mansfield Park – though happy and proud to see talents such as Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham and Rory Sutherland move on to professional teams to further their sporting careers – are concerned about the number of up-and-coming talents, five in their case, also being lost to the new semi-professional tier created in 2019 as a stepping stone from grass-roots clubs such as their to Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh.

The Southern Knights, based in Melrose, are the Borders’ representatives in that contest, along with Ayrshire Bulls, Stirling County and Edinburgh’s Boroughmuir Bears, Heriot’s and Watsonians.

Hawick president Neil Hamilton: “We’re supporting GHA’s motion as we are concerned about players being hand-picked from clubs like ours for the Super6.

“Eventually that’s going to spoil it for the clubs and make it harder to encourage spectators and sponsors to support us.

“There’s no animosity at all between Hawick and the boys now with the Southern Knights. They just want to play at the highest level they can and we fully understand and respect that.

“What we’d prefer to funding going to the Super6 is for the SRU to push more money into the club game.

“What we’d like to see is players playing for their clubs from the start of the season into maybe January and then some of the better performers take part in district championships to put them in the shop window for professional sides.

“The best young players are always going to end up in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and we’ve not got a problem with that at all as they want to play at as high a level as they can and that’s what we want for them too, but we are worried about the number of players being picked up for the Super6 on top of that.”

GHA’s motion that a modernised version of the old inter-district championship, potentially featuring an exiles squad, be introduced in the 2022-23 season, says: “Resources currently directed by Scottish Rugby from the domestic rugby budget towards the Super6 tournament should be reallocated to support the Scottish inter-district championship and club rugby in order to support the player development pathway.

“The inter-district championship represents a better model because Super6 is aligned to six member clubs and creates a glass ceiling for clubs outside those six as there is no promotion or relegation into Super6.

“This creates a monopoly within a selected tier of the domestic clubs. This undermines the pyramid structure and prevents fair competition.

“This poses a risk to the long-term growth of the domestic game.

“The inter-district championship is a representative competition and therefore does not impinge the progress of clubs.”

The Southern Knights beg to differ, however, with Mark Locke, their PR director, saying: “Our support for the squad and the Super6 tournament is unwavering.

“We are fully committed to the franchise and are excited by the potential for progression of young rugby talent.

“The pathway of players is clear to see, with Mak Wilson going to Harlequins, Harri Morris to Edinburgh, and Rory Darge to Glasgow, to name a few.

“We can see huge potential in the competition and we are sure, through time, the standard both on and off the field will be something young aspiring players will want to be a part of.”