When Ayr and Heriot’s meet in the Tennent’s Premiership final this afternoon at Millbrae it will not just be the end of the league season, but the end of an era.
That is because from the 2019-20 campaign the much talked about “Super 6” will come into being, with semi-pro franchises playing out of Ayr, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s, Melrose, Stirling County and Watsonians all taking a leap with the aim of improving the standard of Scottish rugby below the pro game.
Each Super 6 squad will have a full-time coach, a semi-pro playing group of 35 players apiece and are due to take on each other as well as clubs in Wales in a cross- border competition.
The players involved in the new competition will look to push their way into the pro ranks by impressing while on Super 6 duties and, in time, widen the base of talent that is ready to play at a fully professional level and, maybe one day, for Scotland.
The change of structure has been driven by Scottish Rugby and although some clubs below the Super 6 are not happy about it – worrying that talent will be hoovered up by the franchises – today is not the day to talk about that.
There will be more discussions on the future look of rugby in this country at all levels in the coming weeks and months as plenty is still to be ironed out, but for now it is all about Ayr and Heriot’s in their current guises and who will be the final Premiership champions.
And, after a season of twists and turns, it is fitting that the two most consistent teams have made it to this match. Ayr have been boosted by the release of Glasgow pros Stafford McDowall, Paddy Kelly and Ratu Tagive. Head coach Pete Murchie said: “This game presents the team with a huge opportunity and one which I know the players will do everything to take.
“It has all the ingredients to be a great game where both teams will throw everything they have at each other.
“Heriot’s are a very good team who finished second in the league and performed well in their semi-final victory against the Currie Chieftains, so we know the challenge that we will face, but we are at home and the boys are focused.”
Heriot’s make a number of changes. Michael Liness, Callum Marshall, Jack McClean and Struan Dewar return to the pack, while Andrew Simmers, Stuart Edwards and Charlie Simpson return in the backs.
Head coach Phil Smith said: “The squad are playing well and are very focused on what we have to do to give us a chance of the win.
“Our two league fixtures are long in the memory now and while we won the most recent fixture at Millbrae, we are fully aware we’re playing a team very much on the rise after two strong wins against reigning champions Melrose recently.”
The game kicks-off at 3pm.