After as dominant an outing as Cal rugby did in the Dennis Storer Classic last weekend, it may be hard to stay focused and motivated for the next game. But if one thing is certain, it is that Cal Poly will be eyeing for an upset if the Bears do not go against them in all wheels.
Cal will again be using a large squad Saturday, when they will form two teams for the varsity matchup at 3 p.m. and a reserve-grade matchup that will precede it at 1:15 p.m. in Talley Field in Arroyo Grande.
“I don’t think there’s any chance that our guys are going to lose the plot and think they are better than they really are,” said head coach Jack Clark. “It’s not really in our culture, in our team make-up.”
Cal has outclassed Cal Poly for the last five years with an aggregate score of 435-31 in five matches. In 2012, Cal played with a less experienced squad, and Cal Poly capitalized on the Bears’ subpar performance for a 22-20 upset win.
Bearing in mind that only a small portion of the team played in the fall in rugby 7s, it is important to get the upperclassmen rolling before it’s too late. In the fall, forwards don’t usually find themselves a spot because of the nature of the game, and Clark gave most of the playing time to the underclassmen.
“I think we’ll put a pretty experienced lineup on the field,” Clark said. “We’re trying to make sure that we give our most experienced players the chance to get back and find their own rhythm.
Last weekend, it was the start of 15-a-side play for the Bears, but all four games in the Dennis Storer Classic were played in 20-minute halves. The rest of the season will be played in 40-minute halves, so it will be another challenge for upperclassmen to adjust again to the long playing time starting this weekend against Cal Poly.
“When you forget the results and look at the performance, we have a lot of things to get better at in order to have success against the best teams in the country,” Clark said. “I’d be disappointed if we’re not going to get a little bit better over the next month or two in each game out.”
After allowing the entire roster to play last weekend in Los Angeles, the Bears will send a smaller group to central California, as 12 players sustained injuries during the Dennis Storer Classic. Even though the injuries are small, they would probably be sidelined for a week or two.
In the beginning of the season, evaluating performance and making adjustments outweighs the results. For a program such as Cal, however, the results can never be disregarded.
“For us to just win the game and not play well, that doesn’t work for us,” Clark said. “That’s not how we think.”