Biljon - Feet On Ground
By Jack Miller - Sportsbeat
June 26 2015
JERSEY may have just enjoyed their finest Greene King IPA Championship campaign in recent memory, but head coach Harvey Biljon insists they will not be getting carried away as they gear up for next season.
With the side battling relegation when Biljon took over in 2013, the 38-year-old South African helped Jersey beat the Championship drop before steering them to a seventh-place finish in the table last term.
Biljon’s underdogs completed a league double over promotion-chasing Nottingham, and produced an impressive run of form at the end of the season that saw them beat eventual champions Worcester Warriors 23-21 at St. Peter, thanks to Aaron Penberthy’s last-gasp drop-goal from halfway.
But with a host of new faces arriving at the club and preseason already underway, Biljon believes the squad will have to adjust to life in the Championship all over again.
“I think last season was an exciting one for the club as we exceeded expectations,” he said.
“I was really impressed with how this young group of players came together and improved throughout the season, and remained committed to playing good rugby right until the very last game.
“Jersey had been in a relegation battle two years on the bounce, and we really wanted to stabilise in the Championship.
“To do that we needed to get the best out of the players we had. We treated them like adults, made them understand what Jersey is about and what it means to represent the club.
“The players made the difference and leaders began to emerge from within the group. But we have just had 14 new players come into the group, and now is a tran sitional period for the club.
“But we are very confident in where the group has come to, and the new players seem very enthusiastic excited about contributing. So from now we need to build the side together and giving them an understanding of how we do things at Jersey.”
Among Jersey’s recruits are England Under-20 wing Tom Howe, who joins from Wasps having earned himself experience in the Premiership and LV= Cup.
Flanker James Freeman, utility-back Brendan Cope, centre Mark Cooke, and prop Ben Featherstone have all also arrived on the island, and Biljon admits all the new signings face a steep learning curve to adjust to the intensity of Championship rugby.
He added: “We’ve brought in a young guy out of South Africa, Brendan Cope, and he is an unknown quantity who will be keen to test himself, so it will be good to see how he gets on.
“There are a lot of guys coming in who are maybe a little raw – they have the genetics, for want of a better word, to play rugby. Big men like Ben Featherstone, but they need to learn what it is like to play week in, week out at the highest level.
“Being at Jersey is a unique experience. These boys are enjoying being on the island, and don’t forget they will travel away together every other weekend. So it is important we have a close-knit group and they are already starting to gel.
“Overall it’s a very good group, but we are not getting carried away. We are not aiming too high as it is a transitional year.
“We will just be looking to stabilise again in the Championship. If we can do it two seasons on the bounce we can call ourselves a Championship club and then push on for honours.”
Formed in 2009, the Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby union in England. To keep up-to-date with all the latest news follow @ChampRugby on Twitter, or visit www.rfu.com/championshippqs: qs:
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