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Young talent coming from academy is breath of fresh Ayr

Retaining their RBS Premiership crown will be beyond Ayr in what is left of this season but the future looks bright for the Millbrae club, given the talent pouring from their newly created academy structure.

During the last few weeks, their under-16s and under-18s have won the Scottish Rugby Union's inaugural Youth Leagues, winning 18 out of 19 fixtures in the process, and there is something relentless about the way the ambitious Ayr men keep flying ever upwards.

There is no secret to the success of this club, which is intelligently managed at every level. They have established a well-integrated network involving parents, schools, mini and midi rugby coaches, volunteers, local authorities, sponsors, committee stalwarts and star performers in the first XV.

Angus Bunten, for instance, coach of the under-16s, waxes lyrical about the way his teenage prospects have been mentored by senior luminaries from Peter Laverie's squad. "The academy has clearly made a big difference, but we have also gained great support from the likes of Nick Cox and Stuart Fenwick; everybody just wants to help everybody else here," said Bunten, who has been teaching his side since most of them were in P4. "We are not claiming to be unique but there are no big egos here, just people who recognise that things work better when you pull in the same direction.

"The partnerships which have been formed throughout the community have brought dividends and one of the best things is that nobody is ever just thinking about success this year or next. They are looking further down the line."

Gordon Kotze, his counterpart with the under-18s, shares that unstinting dedication to the cause and has derived considerable satisfaction from watching seven or eight of his teenage charges progress to the Ayr first XV on RBS Premiership duty.

"It isn't down to one or two coaches, but scores of people, most of whom will never see their name in lights or in the papers, but we wouldn't be where we are without them," said Kotze. "When I started here, I was sometimes struggling to put out a team. Now we have heaven knows how many, around 200 registered players, and the hardest job is trying to find games for these lads."

Bunten's boys meet Dundee in the national youth cup competitions, while Kotze's kids entertain Melrose and both are a sound bet to continue their winning runs.

It is a whole club philosophy and as Laverie said: "We are all delighted with the performances of these two squads, and both the coaches and players have put in loads of work to achieve their results. The good thing is they are very much part of the club, and we work together as coaches and share ideas.

"We had a joint training session involving our firsts, seconds, under-18s and under-16s on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year and it bodes very well for the future."

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