By Dave Malchak
On March 2, the St. Bonaventure University men’s rugby team resumes play with the seven-man game schedule. The Bonnies will play next month at the Las Vegas Invitational Sevens on the last two class days before the university’s spring break.
Usually rugby is played with 15 players, which is the format for both men’s and women’s play in the fall season. But, only the men compete in the spring session. Neither are considered NCAA sports, but according to the coaching staff, interest is accumulating quickly, and there is a possibility that it will soon be included in the NCAA.
According to sbu.edu, many rugby skills are transferrable from football, basketball, hockey, wrestling and track. This makes lack of experience for new-comers almost a non-factor.
Depending on where they are from, some may be unfamiliar with the basics of the game, through the structure of the game is somewhat similar to American football.
Instead of touchdowns worth six, plus the point after, there is the try, which is worth five. This is accomplished by the player touching the ball to the ground after passing the opposition’s goal line.
There are many more components that new-comers would have to learn to fully understand, as there are many rules and regulations like any sport. But the club sports program has found that more people are trying it in this country and region, which has raised the interest level steadily.
The men’s club sport competes in the Rugby East Division 1A of USA Rugby. Last fall, the Bonnies competed against large universities such as Army, Penn State and West Virginia, according to sbu.edu.
It will make its return to the Marra Athletic Complex pitch with its next game on March 18, hosting South Buffalo Irish.
The men’s coach, Andrew “Tui” Osborne, joined the full-time coaching staff in the fall of 2015, alongside longtime coach Clarence Picard.
Rob DeFazio, the director of the Center for Activities, Recreation, and Leadership, oversees club sports and the work of both coaches.
“Both coaches bring a great deal of playing and coaching experience to the team. They believe in developing the whole student not just a rugby player. Their enthusiasm for the team, the players, and SBU are contagious—success on and off the field for their players will be achieved with their leadership,” said DeFazio.
Osborne spoke about the difference between the fall and spring season, saying the team has adjusted its techniques with the hope to peak at the right tournaments. Some players are on tailored workouts or dietary restrictions to make sure they are well-conditioned for competition.
“Our training periodization is something we have adjusted this year compared to last year’s preparation,” Osborne said,. “As opposed to 15’s, sevens requires a more aerobic base, and endurance is key to being a successful squad.”
Freshman fullback Shane O’Sullivan talked about the goals for the spring season.
“The goal in near sight is to win the Las Vegas Invitational, so that we get an automatic bid to the CRC (Collegiate Rugby Championship), in Philadelphia. But the overall goal for the entire season would be to win as many tournaments as possible,” O’Sullivan said.
According to gobonnies.sbu.edu, the St. Bonaventure community has had the program since 1975, and alumni play a big role in the program’s support. There is even a game held against alumni on the sevens schedule, to be held on April 22, (the two mentioned games on the St. Bonaventure campus are the only games at home this spring as most of play will be tournaments elsewhere).
Osborne is glad he chose the St. Bonaventure campus in which to surround himself.
“I’m honored and thankful to have landed in such a special place. I’ve learned a lot about the community, and I’m enjoying getting to know everyone on campus, especially the players,” he said.
Men’s rugby is listed under the Division 1 category on gobonnies.sbu.edu, and the club sports category on the school sports web sites. Upcoming schedules and rosters for the Bonnies can be found at either location.