Al Kellock believes both Glasgow and Edinburgh can achieve their objectives of a top-four and top-six finish respectively as the Guinness Pro12 enters the home straight.
The former Warriors and Scotland captain feels that the weekend just gone could go down as a defining one after both pro teams secured vital victories over Ulster and Newport Gwent Dragons.
With Italian opposition this weekend, Edinburgh home to Zebre and Glasgow at Treviso, the man who led the Warriors to a historic title in his last game before hanging up his boots last May is confident that the champions can maintain their defence into the post-season play-offs.
“The weekend there was huge,” said Kellock, who continues to work for Scottish Rugby and the Warriors in an ambassadorial and commercial role. “It was a massive result for Glasgow and great for Edinburgh to get the win down at Dragons. Two losses would have put both teams in very difficult positions.
“You look at the run-in for Glasgow and start thinking that top-four is very much achievable. It was gritty against UIster. That didn’t come easy and there was so much effort.”
A try and long-range penalty from man of the moment Stuart Hogg helped Glasgow to a 27-17 win over the Irish province at Scotstoun and Kellock expressed pride at his former team-mate becoming the first Scot to be named Six Nations Player of the Championship, following the likes of Brian O’Driscoll, Shane Williams and Paul O’Connell.
“I was standing next to Henry Pyrgos when he lined up that 55-metre penalty and I said ‘he’s got this’. He just has this golden touch at the moment,” said the former lock, who won 56 caps.
“I spoke to him about it and said ‘look at the players who have won it before you and what they went on to achieve in their careers’.
“Also the guys he was listed with as a nominee this year, including Grand Slam winners. The consistency he had over the whole tournament was great. It’s not easy to be as good as he was in every game. What’s often not talked about as much is his huge workrate. To chase back and put in above-and-beyond effort. For me, that underpinned the award.”
Kellock began his professional career at Edinburgh and believes they, too, can secure a place in the top six, which would mean a return to the top-tier European Champions Cup next season.
He said: “I believe so. It’s going to be difficult for both teams because everyone is chasing it. It’s easy to just focus on Glasgow and Edinburgh but every team is really pushing at this point. But I believe both teams are more than capable of reaching those goals.”
Kellock is promoting a new initiative from the Royal Bank RugbyForce campaign, which will see Scottish clubs sign up for the chance to have him as an honorary board member.
“It’s about getting into clubs and giving them support in terms of grants and looking more at the long term,” he explained.
“This new phase means a club can get the opportunity for me to work with them on their board or committee for a year.
“I’m really looking forward to helping with the experience I’ve had at club, professional and international rugby. I played at Allan Glen’s for 14 years and had a couple at Stirling County too, so I understand the difficulties there can be for clubs and the volunteers needed to keep one going.
“My father has been fixture secretary at Allan Glen’s for 25 years having never played a game of rugby in his life. Once you’re hooked you’re in it for the long haul.”
• Al Kellock is a Royal Bank RugbyForce 2016 Legend, bringing his playing and business experience to help a grassroots club attract members and become more sustainable. To register for a chance to have Al join your rugby club visit www.scottishrugby.org/rugbyforce