THREE of the most promising young players in Scottish rugby are the recipients of this season’s John Macphail Scholarship, and in a change from previous years they will spend time in South Africa rather than New Zealand.
Angus Fraser of Dundee HSFP, Andrew Jardine of Melrose and Guy Kelly of Biggar will all head to Stellenbosch University next month, and spend five months based at the high-performance training facility there. Previous recipients of the scholarship, now in its 13th year, went to Canterbury for 15 weeks.
The change of country will not only ensure that the three members of the BT Sport Academy have a longer programme, it will also expose them to a different type of rugby culture, according to Sean Lineen, the SRU’s head of national age grade and academies. “You only have to look at the difference in rugby between South Africa and New Zealand,” he said.
“New Zealand rugby is very skill-based; it’s space-based and played at speed. South Africa is a lot more intimidating and in your face. We call it north-south: they’re coming for you. So when these three lads go out there, they know that you have to front up physically first and foremost. It’s a really good challenge for them.”
The scholarship, which is administered by the Robertson Trust, has an excellent track record of picking some of the brightest young talent in the game. John Barclay was the first recipient, while more recently Jonny Gray and Phil Russell, as well as some up-and-coming coaches, have been chosen.
“It’s definitely inspiring, looking at that list,” said Jardine, an 18-year-old centre. “Even the boys who’ve been on it recently – Paddy Kelly has just got his first contract with Glasgow, and that’s what we’re all aspiring to go on to do. It makes you feel really honoured to have this opportunity.”
Fraser, a hooker, is a year younger at 17. “As Andy said, it’s a great honour to be on that list,” he said. “All the names in there have been great rugby players and it’s nice to be seen as one of them.”
Kelly, an 18-year-old prop, also said he was inspired by the list of recipients, especially as some of the names on it were involved in Scotland’s record win against Australia last month. “When you look at that list of names and see you’re next in line, it’s motivating as well,” he said. “We’re all really passionate rugby players, our dream is to play for Scotland, and just to see that so many boys from this course have played for Scotland is really motivating and means that we’ve got a good chance.”
The scholarship was created in memory of John Macphail, who played for Scotland between 1949 and 1951. The new partnership with Stellenbosch is expected to remain in place for the next five years at least.
John Macphail Rugby Scholarship – previous recipients:
2005 John Barclay
2006 Graham Hogg
2007 Kevin Bryce
2008 Roddy Grant
2009 Lewis Niven
2010 Finlay Gillies
2011 Grant Gilchrist, Harry Leonard, George Turner. Coach: Ian Monaghan.
2012 Jonny Gray, Gregor Hunter. Coaches: Ben Fisher, Chris Paterson.
2013 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Finn Russell. Coaches: Alex Duncan, Shade Munro.
2014 Adam Ashe, Ewan McQuillin. Coaches: Don Caskie, Kenny Murray.
2015 Callum Hunter-Hill, Ben Robbins. Coaches: Ben Cairns, Duncan Hodge.
2016: Patrick Kelly, Ross McCann. Coaches: Mike Blair, Calum Forrester.