Rugby’s transition to sevens is first step toward progression
The Cougar club rugby team has officially begun their transition from 15-man rugby to sevens. The team will begin its sevens season on Saturday in a round-robin tournament with Sam Houston State University.
As they prepare to face the Bearkats, the rugby players cannot help but look back on a fifteens season of progress and some missed opportunities.
“In the fall, I would probably give [the season] a eight out of 10,” interim head coach Sam Enari said. “We lost some games that we should have won. But we made really good progress in terms of skill and game wise. More importantly, we made more progress as a club, as an organization, in terms of retaining players, building a culture and just getting a more positive footprint here on campus.”
Sevens rugby has the same rules as 15-man rugby. The only difference is the matches are played in seven minute halves with only 14 players between both teams. These changes make for a lot more running and even more scoring, setting up highly entertaining matches.
In recent history, the Cougars fared better in their matches against the Bearkats, but they still expect the tournament to be a good contest. The two teams have not played each other this season, and the Cougars don’t know how well the Bearkats have prepared for a sevens game. But the Bearkats have a new, well-respected head coach.
“We’re gonna try and shut them out and not let them score,” sophomore and fly half Patrick Gaffney said. “Cause we’ve been working hard on defending as well as attacking. And we’re gonna try and push the pace, play really quickly, and if we score, come immediately back into attack. It keeps the other team on the back foot.”
This tournament against the Bearkats is only the first step in a long road for the team. The Cougars will face top-ranked teams in their conference and the state in their quest to reach the Sevens National Championship. In order to compete against these top-ranked teams, like Texas Tech and University of North Texas, the Cougars will have to adapt quickly and get themselves in peak fitness.
“For the team to make a successful transition, I think their fitness needs to increase,” freshman and outside center Lesedi Manthata said. “I think the people who typically play fifteens are going to have to learn the skills and the difference in playing sevens. So I think they’re going to have to watch a lot of sevens on TV and adapt.”
After Sam Houston, the Cougars will compete in a series of matches in March to keep them in prime playing shape for April. The Cougars will participate in seeding tournaments in the first two weekends in April to determine their matchups in the Southwest Conference Championship during the last weekend of April.