When winning becomes a habit, losing is no longer an option.
“I’d be disappointed if I thought the result was in jeopardy,” said head coach Jack Clark. “I think we will win.”
Cal rugby (5-0-0) is looking to rack up its sixth victory this weekend as it plays Oregon State (0-0-1) in its first home fixture Saturday at 1 p.m. The team has been dominant so far this year and will look to continue this form as it goes into its next encounter.
The Beavers are an opposition Cal is expected to beat convincingly, and this expectation can sometimes be detrimental to the team’s performance. With a win presumed, the team and the fans may well underestimate the opposition, allowing Oregon State to potentially get the better of what will be an experimental lineup for the Bears.
The squad is looking to experiment with players, especially the forwards, as it develops and creates its team identity after last season’s inevitable senior losses. New hooker Michael Bush will start as a reserve for the game due to injury, which means prop Tanner Mohr or flanker Jack O’Beirne will start in his place. This lack of continuity in the front row is a drawback for the Bears, especially when considering the pivotal role the No. 2 position has within the set piece in both the lineout and the scrum.
“It’s just new for everyone,” Clark said. “I think physically everyone is capable of it, and they have the skills to be pretty good at it. They just haven’t got a ton of reps at it.”
The forwards in the team have the least game time as a unit, and this is an aspect of the game that Clark is looking to instigate in the regular season, while the Bears are still playing against comfortable opposition. It is in these games that Cal has the opportunity to try out different combinations in preparation for its big competitions further on in the season.
“It’s the least proven part of the team,” Clark said. “We just don’t have guys that have had great performances against the top teams. We have a lot of work to do in the forwards.”
That being said, the Bears are still expected to win the match and as a result, and their main objective is their own game rather than concentrating on the opposition. The team is looking to iron out its own errors and focus on each individual game.
“We need to build on where we started from LA,” said center Seamus Kelly. “We look to challenge ourselves. Whether it’s a national season game or a regular season game, we always look to our opponents second.”
This Saturday will also be a chance for Cal to showcase its team for the home crowd. The opening encounter at Witter Rugby Field is where the players will look to create a performance and provide an opportunity for the fans to watch the Bears at their best.
“We always want to come out and have a big home performance for the fans,” said flanker Jack O’Beirne.
Daniella Mogilner covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected].