Rugby Opens Fall Season With Arkansas
JONESBORO — Arkansas State University’s rugby fall season gets underway this weekend when the Red Wolves face the University of Arkansas, Saturday, Sept. 10, in Little Rock.
The varsity teams for both programs will play at 11:15 a.m., with the junior varsity matchup beginning at 12:30 p.m. All matches will be played in the Little Rock Rugby Club, 14301 Dineen Drive.
“The players are excited to get the fall season underway,” said Head Coach Shaun Potgieter, who begins his second season at A-State. “We’ve been practicing for three weeks, and the workouts have been a bit chippy and physical, which is a definite sign that we need a hit out against an opponent other than ourselves.”
A-State welcomes some new names and faces to the roster after the departure of several key seniors, including ZinZan Elan-Puttick and Connor Cook. The squad does return some young players who earned experience last year in the Red Wolves’ run to the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup 15s and 7s College Championships. Arkansas State fell to top-ranked Brigham Young in the 15s semifinals and eventual champion California in the 7s quarterfinals.
“Zach Young will be a force in the game, no doubt,” added Potgieter. “This will be the first game at A-State for Valentin Balande, who is a transfer from France, and we (coaches) are excited to see what he can bring to the table. He has proven himself in the past three weeks.”
Young, a sophomore from Gold Coast, Australia, came on stronger as the season progressed last year, and had success in the championships.
“Kuda Makuvire will be the captain of the team this weekend and has been leading the team for more than a year, so he has the experience,” Potgieter said. “Kirk Pretorius is expected to play roughly 40 minutes as he is battling a lower back strain. Kirk leads by example by the way he plays, and I know it will ignite energy into his teammates.”
Arkansas State will play its largest schedule as the team will play nine times in the fall and 12 in the spring. That does not include Varsity Cup play. The Red Wolves play nine times at home on the Curt Huckaby Field.
Potgieter went on to say, “We had multiple cancellations last year, which hurt us in preparation for the Varsity Cup, so having 20-plus games will allow us to deal with a few cancellations here and there. I am more than ready for the upcoming year. Having more games allows the coaches to watch film and evaluate where we are successful and what we need to improve on. It also allows us to try different combinations and ultimately have the best combinations figured out by the time Varsity Cup comes around.
“Nothing compares to game experience and game fitness. This schedule will help us prepare and progress throughout the year. The players came here to play rugby, so I’m giving them as much opportunity as possible.”