The players of Stirling County are embracing the opportunity to attain legendary status by becoming only the second team in the club’s history to win a piece of major silverware as they look to upset the odds in today’s BT Cup final against hot favourites Melrose.
The current crop will be aiming to join the famous side of 1995, who became the first club from outside Edinburgh or the Borders to win the national championship.
It was a different era back then, with the Bridgehaugh outfit boasting international stars like Kenny Logan, Kevin McKenzie and Ian Jardine, who is now the club’s 2nd XV coach, as they became the last league champions before rugby went professional.
“Absolutely,” said Stirling player/coach Peter Jericevich when asked if the class of ‘95 acted as an inspiration heading into today’s final.
“From a personal point of view, as a player and coach it has been my reasoning to go to Stirling to win silverware. I saw the potential, there is that great youth section but it’s never transferred to the senior side since 1995.
“The aim of the whole squad is to win. Ian Jardine is our second XV coach. There’s a lot of guys still around the club who were involved in that ’95 team, on the committee or Ian in coaching. We’ll use the experience we have at the club to give the guys an insight into how to win trophies and realise the opportunity we have.” Jericevich fields Glasgow Warriors and Fiji star Niko Matawalu on the wing but is perfectly comfortable with being branded underdogs against the champions and holders.
“That’s understandable. Melrose have been the form team this year and for the past couple of years,” he said. “It has been them and Ayr fighting it out at the top. We haven’t been fighting it out in the league recently and it’s the first time we’ve been in the cup final so it’s a really exciting challenge for us to play against the best team in the country. Hopefully we’ll rise to it.
“They’ve had the Premiership final and their Sevens but we’ll have freshness and intensity.”
Melrose coach Rob Chrystie is, understandably, more wary of the favourites’ tag and is not taking the team who finished seventh in the BT Premiership lightly after they put together a strong end to the season.
“You are saying that [we’re favourites], but we’re not expecting to win comfortably,” said Chrystie.
“It’s a bit of a cliche, but in a cup final anyone can win on the day. The formbook goes out the window. Stirling beat Hawick by 50 points [in the semi-final] and you have to be playing pretty well to do that. They will be confident as well. It’s an exciting day and we’ll see how we get on.
“Stirling have quality players throughout their squad. There’s no doubt about that. When you play against decent players they generally go up a level as well when they know they have to. We definitely won’t be underestimating them. They have prepared really well and this has been their focus since they were safe.”
Melrose are aiming for a fourth cup success to go with their ten league titles but are also eyeing a bit of history as they look to wrap up a second double and first for 21 years.
“We’ve done the double once, in 1997,” said Chrystie. “For the club, for the town, for the whole community it would be pretty big. But more importantly for me it would be big for the players because it is a really special group this year, and has been for the last two or three years.
“They’ve worked extremely hard. They’ve done everything that’s been asked of them and hopefully they will get their reward. For me, it’s more important for them.”