The University of San Francisco’s men’s rugby team spent last Thursday, Feb. 9 through Sunday, Feb. 12 competing in and watching rugby matches at the Collegiate Rugby 7s Championships qualiﬁer tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada. The tournament is an NCAA Division I event, and while USF’s team is a club sport, it was considered to be a Division III level team at the tournament. The new classiﬁcation led to some changes in the University’s recognition of the team, which included partial funding for the Las Vegas trip. Generally, club sports teams pay for the costs of travel and equipment on their own, but as an NCAA sanctioned sport, the University pays those costs.
In addition to funding, there is an even bigger change that comes with switching between club and NCAA level rugby. Club rugby plays a 15s game (15 players on the ﬁeld at a time), while NCAA rugby is a 7s game (seven players on the ﬁeld at a time). USF’s rugby team, the Defenders of the Faith, was challenged to learn a new style of play before their matches in Las Vegas.
The Defenders played matches against St. Joseph’s University, University of Buffalo and the Claremont Colleges. They weren’t able to come away with any wins, but the tournament was an important learning experience for the developing team.
“While we dropped all three matches, this tournament was a litmus test for us as far as essential rugby skills go, and we performed well,” junior team captain and club president Rainier Cardin said.
“Our lack of time and experience with 7s showed, but our basic rugby skills were very sound so I, personally, am very happy with what we did and I know the coaches are as well.”
The USF team spent the rest of the weekend in Las Vegas watching the other events taking place in and around Sam Boyd stadium. The biggest event was the HSBC International Sevens World Series, a tournament among the best sevens rugby teams in the world. The team from Samoa defeated New Zealand for the championship in the 16-team tournament.
The USF Defenders return to San Francisco to play out the rest of their season in the Bay area. Discounting the Las Vegas tournament, they will play 10 matches in the regular season and also add 4-5 pre-season matches. The pre-season takes place during the fall semester while the regular season runs January-April.
“(This season) I want to see this team grow. We are very young and fairly new as a unit to the game of rugby. We do, however, have some phenomenal individual talent and I want to see more of the newer guys learning from the veterans and becoming veterans themselves who lead future USF ruggers,” Cardin said.
The Las Vegas tournament was a chance for USF to improve on skills and strength before playing the rest of their regular season.
“The team was awesome,” Cardin said. “We have very little 7s experience, but we gave it all we had for those three matches and our skills, as well as our ﬁtness levels, grew signiﬁcantly.”
The Defenders play their next match on Saturday, Feb. 18 against their rivals San Francisco State. The match begins at 1pm at Negoesco Field.