The South are positioning themselves to potentially rise again and it could lead to a semi-professional rugby team possibly returning to the Borders.
It has been 10 years since the Borders Reivers kicked their last ball, scored their last try and made their last tackle. One of the casualties of the Scottish Rugby Union’s bumbled entry into the age of professional rugby. Their disbandment was blamed on a fanbase who would rather focus on the flourishing regional club game than attend a professional match, not least because their “home” base was Gala RFC’s Netherdale Stadium, and years of underachievement. Those weren’t the reasons for its failure. It failed because the SRU would rather focus its efforts on two teams with the potential, and geography, to become something bigger. Could the Reivers and professional rugby have worked had it not been cast out like bruised fruit no longer appetising to its owners? Probably, but it will forever be etched into rugby history as a what-if. Or so we thought.
News this week that the regional team The South of Scotland, an invitational Borders-based side, is preparing to make a bid to become one of the six semi-professional sides to compete in the SRU’s latest attempt to close the gap between the professional and club game in Scotland, the Super SIx competition. Jed-Forest, Hawick, Selkirk, Gala, Peebles and Kelso are the teams speculated to have had formal discussions in helping to push the South towards taking up one of the six potential franchises through. Melrose are the lone holdout as they hope to become one of the six teams by themselves.
“The Border clubs met for the Border League in Kelso [last week] and we had [the Super Six competition] on the agenda,“ said Hawick club president John Thorburn to the Border Rugby News this week.
“There was definitely an appetite from six out of the seven Border clubs to take this to another level and discuss the potential of the South of Scotland being a [Super Six] franchise and the viability.of that as well.”
Now we all know a team made up of a collection of Border clubs has the potential to collapse in on itself before a ball is even kicked, but with the way the regional game has gone in the Borders in recent years, this might be the only way clubs remain a going concern. Player shortages, lack of finances, nonexistent supporters and years of little success has led to teams struggling to compete. The rich history of Borders rugby is fading into irrelevance while city teams in Glasgow and Edinburgh flourish. A move to join forces under the banner of the South is potentially one way for all the Border clubs to begin that long climb back to the summit of Scottish rugby.
But, and it is a big but, can six Border clubs who have notoriously fallen out over some of the most trivial issues in the past make it work and can they traverse the hundreds of other issues that will arise with this potential team? Where will the team play? Will it be at one location similar to the Reivers, we know how that will end, or will it rotate around the various clubs involved? Where will the players train?
Where will the players come from? Will it be a collection of the best players from each of the clubs? Will the clubs who are involved be able to field a club team in the reconstituted BT club leagues?
Who will take charge at board level? Will it be a collection of club committee members from each side? Who will coach? And where will the funding come from?
These are just a few of a long list of questions these six Border clubs will have to answer and prove they have the ability to make work otherwise a return of semi-professional or professional rugby to the region could be another 10 years away.