New boy's hopes are pinned on Port Seton inspiration

AS destinations for historical pilgrimages go, Rosslyn Chapel, with its perceived links to the Holy Grail, usually has the edge on 9 Elcho Place, Port Seton.

But don't tell that to Scotland rugby hopeful Sam Pinder as he prepares to set off next month for South Africa fortified by the knowledge that, while he may have been born and brought up in New Zealand, his roots are firmly in Caledonian soil.

On the 27-year-old scrum half's own admission, it was important, in committing himself to the country of his paternal grandmother, Marjorie Pinder, that he felt a sense of belonging.

He revealed: "Although I am growing all the time into the Scottish culture and environment there was a stage when my parents paid me a visit a couple of Christmases ago where we all had to set out from my home in Glasgow to discover where gran was from.

"It was important to establish a link with my heritage and, although gran was born in Musselburgh, we found the actual house in Port Seton she knew as home before emigrating.

"Having made myself even better equipped to respond when asked about my Scottishness I am now partly motivated by the thrill she and my dad, in particular, will get from seeing me in the Scottish tour squad.

"What's more, if I get the ultimate thrill of being called on to the pitch at any stage in either Port Elizabeth or Durban to face the Springboks then, without doubt, I'll dedicate that coveted cap to my family."

Looking ahead, though, the unassuming Pinder tempered his remarks with recognition of the fact that he stands apart as the only uncapped member of the party.

And Mike Blair occupied his position at some stage or other throughout Scotland's recent record-breaking RBS Six Nations tournament which saw a highest-ever placing, third, achieved.

Pinder said: "From where I am standing, I can see Mike Blair is the first choice No.9 and thoughts of displacing him for the Tests on June 10 and 17 are not uppermost in my mind. Pinder undoubtedly owes his chance to an unfortunate pectoral injury which will force British Lion Chris Cusiter to stay behind.

And the Taupo-born Glasgow Warrior said: "Just to be included in the squad is a huge honour but, of course, if I am called upon then I'll be giving it my best shot."

What Scotland will certainly get from Pinder is a dynamic individual groomed at the highest level.

In 2000, when Pinder had to pass up the chance to represent the Northland Vikings Select against Scottish tourists in Whangerei it was for the best of reasons - inclusion in an All Blacks under-21 trial.

The fact his contemporaries included the likes of Jerry Collins and Aaron Mauger, who were part of the Kiwi Colts line-up which subsequently put 60 points on South African under-21s that season, meant there was absolutely no shame in missing out on selection.

Besides, as one door closed another was about to open with a trip to Scotland where, coincidentally, he finds himself being coached by the original kilted Kiwi, Sean Lineen, pictured left, at Glasgow Warriors.

"I am aware of how Sean was the first modern day player to come over and represent Scotland out of Boroughmuir via a spell in Wales," said Pinder.

"And it would be great if things were ever to work out as well for me as they did for Sean with grand slams and so on.

"Meantime, all I can do is try to draw on some top-class coaching to stand me in good stead.

"Here I have benefited from touring under the tutelage of ex-All Blacks No.9 Sid Going while Wayne Pivac, currently in charge of Fiji, was heavily responsible for my early development when I was also indebted to Bryce Woodward, who is highly rated in the New Zealand system.

"Above all, though, my parents, who are both teachers, sowed the seeds of my enthusiasm with impromptu passing and tackling lessons on a golf course near our home which is ironic also in the sense that Dad's sporting pre-occupation was cricket where he reached provincial level."

Now Sam, a qualified teacher himself, could be set to go one better on the sporting stage - with the ramifications being felt all the way from South Africa to New Zealand to a suburban street in the heart of an East Lothian fishing village.