GLASGOW’S latest recruit from the southern hemisphere, Tyrone Holmes, goes straight into the team for tonight’s training match in Aberdeen hopeful that it can be the first step on the road to a Scotland cap.
The 27-year-old openside flanker arrived in Glasgow last month after a career spent with Western Province, the Stormers, Cornish Pirates in England and Padova in Italy, but revealed that he could have been back in his father’s homeland two years ago had things worked out differently.
Holmes’ father Steven is from the Borders town of Peebles but he left for South Africa with his family as a 14-year-old.
The Holmes returned but he remained in Cape Town having met and married Debra Jeffery and launched a boat repairs business. Their son carved out a successful professional rugby career in South Africa but was edged out in the race for Test honours and so, like many with Scots roots before him, decided to head for Caledonia.
“It’s great to be here, with most of my dad’s family now around Glasgow,” he said. “I was here two years ago actually and was keen then to join Glasgow. I liked the facilities here and the coaching staff, and have my Scottish ambitions, but it didn’t work out due to timing issues really.
“So I’m delighted to have the chance now. It is a long-term goal of mine to play for Scotland, and I’m eligible now through my dad, but it all starts with competing for a place at Glasgow and then trying to play well.”
He does not expand on the timing issues, but with John Barclay having left for the Scarlets, Glasgow are short of experienced opensides, so the timing may now be right for him to flourish at Scotstoun.
Coach Gregor Townsend expects Holmes to boost competition in much the same way as his long-time friend Josh Strauss has done after making the move from the Republic last year.
Holmes said: “It’s up to me to prove what I can bring, but when I was discussing coming here with Glasgow I messaged Josh – who I’ve known since under-19s rugby – and he said he was loving it. I knew the facilities were good and the set-up good quality, but I didn’t know much about the players and Josh said they were great.
“And they have been. I’ve only been here three weeks but they’ve been very welcoming and helped me settle in very quickly, and though training has been pretty tough, it’s also been really enjoyable. The weather has also been a lot better than Josh said, which is a bonus.”
Holmes was a member of the Western Province side that won the Vodacom Cup for the first time in 2012, and he stepped up to the Stormers that season as the Super Rugby side was hit by back row injuries before joining Padova for a short spell.
He has played across the back row but, at 6ft 1in and 16 stones, he believes that openside – No 6 in South Africa, but No 7 here – is his best position.
Townsend is keen on his physicality and Holmes insists that he will bring aggression, but of a more controlled variety than that which earned him a first red card playing for WP against Natal Sharks last year.
“It wasn’t much of a fight,” he said, recalling the fisticuffs, “but I obviously learned from it.
“I’d like to think that I will bring an element of aggression to Glasgow, but I also pride myself on my workrate, my defence and getting turnovers. It’s an edge, I think. I still have a lot to learn and improve on, but I’m looking forward to starting the process at Glasgow, and in Aberdeen this week.”
With the Scotland and British & Irish Lions tourists only recently back to training, the Warriors team has a distinctly young, but exciting, look to it.
Late tour call-ups Gordon Reid, Fraser Brown and Jon Welsh are included, steeling the front row, along with eight players from Scotland’s recent U20 Junior World Championship campaign in the 28-man squad.
Holmes starts in a back row alongside Adam Ashe and Rob Harley, with Jonny Gray and Andy Redmayne at lock, while Ayr’s Robbie Ferguson is handed a start at full-back after impressing in training, with Byron McGuigan on the right wing and DTH van der Merwe on the left, before the latter heads back to Canada for their World Cup qualifier double-header with the USA in nine days’ time. Two of Scotland’s most promising young centres, Mark Bennett and Finn Russell, pair up with skipper Scott Wight partnering new signing from Bedford, under-20 cap Ali Price, at half-back. Two more new signings, Gabriel Ascarate and Richie Vernon, are among the substitutes.
“This is our first pre-season game,” said Townsend, “and it will be a good test for the group ahead of our matches against Harlequins and Exeter Chiefs later this month.
“The squad is predominantly made up of those that have been involved since the start of pre-season training back in early June and they are raring to go after working very hard over the past two months.”
v Aberdeen Grammar at Rubislaw
tonight kick-off 6pm
15 R Ferguson
14 B McGuigan
13 M Bennett
12 F Russell
11 DTH van der Merwe
10 S Wight (capt)
9 A Price
1 G Reid
2 F Brown
3 J Welsh
4 A Redmayne
5 J Gray
6 R Harley
7 T Holmes
8 A Ashe.
K Bryce, D Rae, D Mutamangira, E Kalman, T Ryder, J Eddie, W Bordill, R Vernon, P Jericevich, R Hughes, G Ascarate, J Steele, G Lowe