There are certain teams for which going undefeated in conference is the greatest attainable accomplishment of a single season. The Cal rugby team, however, is not one of those teams.
For the Bears, dominance in the PAC Rugby Conference is merely the status quo, and seasons in which they’ve triumphed over every conference opponent are too numerous to count.
Thus, as Cal (17-1, 5-0) gears up to face Utah (5-3-1, 0-1-1) in its final PAC conference matchup, the Bears are more focused on preparing for the all-important postseason rather the individual win.
Cal recently took the crown at their own homecoming tournament, the Cal Invitational, where it triumphed over Army in the final game, 50-41. With that last emphatic win under their belts, the Bears should be confident as they travel to Utah this weekend.
From here on out, Cal will be focusing on perfecting the details of its game. The Bears have just two games left after they play the Utes — all on Saturdays — which will provide them with ample extra practice time to push their game forward in ways that they weren’t able to earlier.
“I think from now on we are going to battle and focus on the things we need to focus on,” said sophomore prop Damon Wiley. “I think we are really going to be able to hone in and focus as a group.”
The Utes have yet to tally an in-conference victory this season, with a loss at the hands of Arizona and a tie against UCLA — both teams that the Bears have beaten this season. Utah has, however, emerged emphatically victorious against five opponents — none of whom have been particularly successful in their own seasons.
Cal head coach Jack Clark will be mixing up the roster for this weekend’s upcoming game, meaning that reserve players who have shown particular aptitude throughout the season could see more playing time against Utah.
“I think it’s valuable to develop our depth within this team, because come postseason, you don’t know if you’re gonna need to call upon some guys that didn’t necessarily get all the minutes that they deserved or all the minutes that they had hoped to get,” said fifth-year No. 8 Thomas Robles. “But they’ve shown the potential and the growth pattern to become a crucial part of this team come postseason.”
Some of those guys may include sophomore scrumhalf Ken Kurihara and senior wing Justin Dunn, who scored three tries in the Bears’ massive win against Arizona State. As the ever-important postseason nears, giving some of these guys valuable playing time could help expand the variety of postseason rosters, which could prove invaluable for the Bears down the stretch.
A win against Utah would continue the Bears’ supremacy in the PAC Rugby Conference, but with a few games left in the regular season, Cal is likely still looking towards the future and the national championship.
Sophie Goethals covers rugby. Contact her at [email protected]