Can Reds give motivated Harlequins a shock?
Opportunity to send out statement of intent with a good show against international thoroughbreds
HARVEY BILJON admits there has been a feeling of apprehension for his players this week as they prepare to welcome Harlequins to St Peter.
The Premiership giants go head-to-head with Jersey Reds tomorrow evening in a game earmarked as the Islanders’ showpiece pre-season fixture, and the top-tier squad are likely to be just as determined to impress as the hosts’ new signings.
Now under the guidance of former England defence coach Paul Gustard, Quins are set to include the likes of Chris Robshaw, Danny Care and Mike Brown at Stade Santander – a Six Nations and World Cup trio who all featured when the clubs met at The Stoop in 2017.
Tongan centre Apakuki Ma’afu has been handed the Reds captaincy for the 7 pm clash as Biljon rotates his men for the second of three matches before the 2018/19 Championship campaign.
‘I think there’s a fair bit of anxiety around the club this week, from the players’ perspective,’ said the head coach.
‘They know they’re coming up against a Harlequins team with a new coaching set up and a lot of the players will be looking to impress their new coach.
‘We know it’s going to be massive challenge, but it’s one we’ll learn a lot from.’
Jersey lost 47-21 on the last meeting between the sides 12 months ago, after conceding tries in the first minute of each half. However, Biljon says he has not taken pointers from those slow starts while preparing for the latest encounter.
‘Everyone has got to be in a position where they’re concentrating and focused from start to finish,’ he said.
‘I haven’t looked back at the game from last year at all. There’s nothing we could go back on really – there have been personnel changes and it’s more about giving some of the players their first run out and bit of game time against different opposition.’
With Jersey’s Championship rivals Coventry no doubt keen to keep an eye on the result ahead of the league curtain-raiser on 1 September, there is also a chance for Biljon’s professionals to send out a message to the UK.
‘I’ve not looked at it from that perspective ... it might be a good way to look at it,’ he added, with a caveat.
‘Yes, we can get excited about the performance, but really everything we’re doing it about preparation for the season. We can have a wonderful pre-season and win everything but it doesn’t mean anything when the season starts.’
Cameron Holenstein – recently signed from Harlequins – starts in the front row alongside hooker Charlie Maddison and tighthead Leeroy Atalifo.
Zimbabwe international Hilton Mudariki is on the bench following his return from a World Cup qualifier against Janco Venter’s Namibia, while lock Jerry Sexton is in line for his first appearance of the summer.
Venter is still away on international duty, and returning fly-half Aaron Penberthy is back into full training ahead of the visit of Old Elthamians next weekend.
Jersey Reds (1-15): Cameron Holenstein, Charlie Maddison, Leeroy Atalifo, Charlie Beckett, Adam Batt, Rory Bartle, Graham Geldenhuys, Kyle Hatherell, Will Homer, Brett Herron, Jack Stapley, Apakuki Ma’afu, James Newey, Jason Worrall, Auguy Slowik.
Replacements: Harry Morley, Nick Selway, Sam Rodman, Dave McKern, Jerry Sexton, Conor Joyce, Hilton Mudariki, Koch Marx, George Eastwell, Leroy Van Dam.