In its 137th year, Cal rugby still has the same mentality as day one, but the Bears have a lot to prove after ending the 2017-18 season without any major cups.
The PAC Rugby Conference 7s Championship, College 7s National Championship and 15s National Collegiate Championship were all lost in the last round last year, and there is nothing more motivational than a final’s loss, let alone three.
Offseason training comes to an end for the Bears this weekend as they head to San Luis Obispo to kickoff 7s play at the West Coast Collegiate 7s. The team will split into two groups Saturday under the names of “Cal” and “Bears” to represent the blue and gold.
“The guys have a lot of endeavors and a lot of intent — they have been training really hard,” said Cal rugby head coach Jack Clark.
Last season, Clark put up two teams of evenly distributed talent in the competition, and Cal and Bears ended up tying against each other in the final, 21-21.
This year, the Cal team will feature solely upperclassmen, while only underclassmen will compete for the Bears team.
“I think it will be in some ways harder for both,” Clark said. “I think some of the underclassmen would definitely feature in our best team, but playing all underclassmen, they will struggle. You know, it’s okay that it is harder for both of them I think. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Cal lost key players such as All-Americans Thomas Robles and Justin Dunn to graduation and sophomore center Seth Purdey who will take the fall 7s season off due to his international play with the Canadian national team. Otherwise, returning players and newcomers will be ready to show what they are capable of.
Nine of the 14 incoming freshmen will wear blue and gold on the field for the first time this Saturday as Clark tries to give every 7s player in his arsenal a chance to shine. Clark will be looking to find the best combination of players for PAC 7s Conference Tournament, which will be held on the Witter Rugby Field in November.
“I think they look okay, the freshmen,” Clark said. “You can close your eyes and see some real promise in them.”
After an overtime loss in the PAC 7s final to the Wildcats in Arizona, the Bears will have the chance to retake the crown at Strawberry Canyon in front of the Cal faithful. To accomplish this goal, however, the team will have to approach every tournament one by one starting this weekend.
Cal will play in Pool A with host Cal Poly and UC Santa Cruz, while Bears will compete in Pool C against UC Davis and Fresno State. Pool B will feature UCLA, Santa Clara and Santa Barbara, while Arizona, USC and Stanford compete in Pool D.
Later in October, the Bears will compete on Treasure Island before capping off the short fall season on Nov. 3 and 4 on the Witter Rugby Field.