SCOTLAND’S search for new talent around the world goes on with the appearance this week at squad training in Nelspruit of a teenage South African who wants nothing more than to play for Scotland.
The Scotland under-20s are cultivating Tommy Allan, the stand-off nephew of former Springbok and Scotland hooker John Allan, and looking to follow him is 19-year-old Bradley Harper. Born in South Africa to Scottish parents, he is in the Sharks academy but hopped across to Scotland last season for a stint with Glasgow Hawks to prove where his allegiances lie.
He is currently waiting to hear if the Johannesburg-based MTT Lions want to add him to their roster for next season, but, if they do not, the strong-running centre – he made the Scottish players take note when he scored an interception try in his first session on Thursday – is keen to return to Anniesland and push for a professional contract.
“My whole family, mum, dad and granddad are all Scottish,” he explained. “My mum Claire was born in Kirkintilloch. I have been to Scotland twice and played for the Scottish Exiles there and played for Glasgow Hawks. I played there from September to January, had nine games, but came back when my uncle died and, by the time I was ready to go back, the Scottish season was nearly finished so I just stayed in South Africa.
“Rob Brierley, the Exiles manager, called me and told me that Scotland would be touring South Africa this month and that the coaches would like to meet me, so that’s why I’m here. It has been a huge privilege to be brought into the squad and to train with the guys. It’s been incredible.”
Scotland head coach Scott Johnson laughed off suggestions that the spate of injuries on this tour meant he was looking to call up any local teenager with a Scottish connection, but said: “We’d be silly not to look at kids who are available to play for Scotland.
“I will go and shake hands with the kid, see what he is like, put him with the group and it gives you a little comparison to see where we are. We don’t know much about him. He has played club footy in Scotland and it is a good opportunity. We would be silly not to open our doors to all people.
“We intend to do that and this is where the Exiles programme comes into place. It is our third pro team, and we need to make sure that we look around the world and who is available to play for Scotland because I keep coming back to the fact that we need to broaden our player base.”
Brierley has been leading Scotland’s scouting network from his English base and is now being supported by Johnson and Sean Lineen.
Harper added: “I am 100 per cent Scottish and we’ll see what happens. I am in talks with the local franchise, the Lions, but I would prefer to get a contract in Scotland because half my family is there and I love Scotland.”