This weekend against UC Davis, the Cal rugby team will be switching up the starting lineup a little bit in order to give some additional guys playing time and experience. The squad will also be leaving on a bus the morning of the match.
The last time the team combined those two tactics this season, it lost for the first time since 2009.
In what looks to be the definition of a trap game, the Bears will head out to Davis on Saturday, taking on the Aggies at 1 p.m. at Russell Field.
Still, the Cal rugby team’s toughest opponent might not be the team it’s playing.
“The biggest concern is probably going to be the weather,” said coach Jack Clark. “You can’t pretend that the ball isn’t muddy and wet. It might be that the conditions will be as much of a challenge as the Davis team.”
Based on the transitive property, Cal should have no problem with UC Davis. UCLA hosted the Aggies back in February and handled them, 27-5. The Bears are coming off a 79-3 win over the Bruins and should be in line to do something similar to Davis.
But with a rematch with British Colombia, over whom the Bears hold just a one-point advantage in the World Cup Series, and a showdown with powerhouse St. Mary’s looming in the near future, it’s hard to imagine that Cal is completely focused on the task at hand.
That, coupled with poor weather conditions the likes of which the Bears have yet to play in this season, could spell trouble for the squad.
“They’re not UBC or Utah, but it’s not a game we can look past,” said sophomore Patrick Coleman. “The weather is definitely going to be a factor. The backs won’t be able to move the ball as fast, so it will be a more forward-oriented game.”
The Bears have been plagued all season by spotty ball handling — including a myriad of dropped balls resulting in turnovers. A wet and soggy field likely won’t help alleviate the problem.
Due to the expected conditions, the Bears will try to pound the ball with their forwards, turning the match into a physical dogfight won by strength rather than finesse. Cal’s forwards have been pushed around a couple times in 2012 — most notably by British Colombia — and have yet to prove themselves as the dominating force that they are expected to be.
But the front line is coming off one of its strongest performances of the year after physically abusing UCLA for 80 minutes and should match up well with the smaller Aggies.
“They probably wouldn’t be our biggest competition,” said junior Brendan Daly. “But historically, they’ve brought a pretty physical game and have been a team to reckon with.”
As long as Cal is more or less focused on the task at hand, the team should be poised to see different results this time.
“This is a team that can give us a hard time, but I’d be disappointed if that happened,” Clark said.