Trinity rugby played in their first tournament this past weekend. The club, which was established in the fall of this school year, has grown over the past semester. Club founders Simba Machingaidze and Calvin Usiri played rugby together in high school, where they attended the same Kenyan boarding school. For Simba, who is from Zimbabwe, and Usiri, who is from Tanzania, getting to share the sport with their peers has been an incredible experience. The team has been allowed growth in part due to a partnership with the San Antonio Rugby Football Club (SARFC). It was through the San Antonio RFC that they started being coached by former professional rugby player Timana Tahu. Tahu, who serves as director of rugby operations for SARFC, has helped the club from the start.
“Timana Tatu played professionally for the Australian National team and is actually like really well known in the Wallaby Club and nobody really realized it until a friend of our’s brother came from Australia and he’s like, “˜There’s no way Tahu is coaching y’all. He’s like my childhood hero,'” said sophomore computer science major Austin Gieselman. “He’s been coaching us from the get go. He’s helped us come along quickly and with the help of like the club we’ve progressed further than I thought we would in one semester’s time.”
Through help from the local club and through their own personal dedication, members of the team have proven their talent.
“There are some [guys on the team] who have just picked up the game and they’re better than I am,” Machingaidze said. “We’re just trying to learn together and I’m learning from them as well, but it’s certainly not the case that I’d know everything.”
Many members of the team have experience with American football, which despite a shared ancestor, a similarly shaped ball and the distinction of being called contact sports, has many key differences from football. Among those distinctions is that in rugby, like in soccer, the clock never stops, making for a more exciting game.
“Unlike football where there are dead-balls, in rugby if you get tackled, it’s your responsibility to get the ball for your teammates,” said sophomore business major Dayton Aimes.
The fast-paced and physical nature of the game is exciting for those who have never played it before.
“There’s a lot of passion that goes behind [rugby],” Gieselman said. “Especially sevens “˜cause you’re counting on your team to put themselves out there, sacrifice their bodies for you “˜cause they know you’ll do the same cause if you don’t make that tackle like in sevens, it’s a breakaway and they’re gonna be gone. You really just gotta put yourself on the line.”
“One big thing about both rugby and football is that when you play sports with that much contact, you really build bonds between you and your teammates,” Aimes said. “I’m definitely probably in the honeymoon stage with rugby, but I’m definitely enjoying it. I’m having a lot of fun with it.”
The team saw a long day of rugby out at San Antonio’s Wheatley Field, where teams competed in round-robin matches of rugby from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Among the six teams at the tournament were two San Antonio club teams, as well as collegiate club teams from Abilene Christian University (ACU) and Sam Houston State University (SHSU), the latter of which the Tigers lost to in the semifinals. SHSU is home to established men and women’s rugby clubs boasting talented players.
“It was good to play someone with that much experience to see how far we’ve come, but still how far we have to go,” Gieselman said.
Despite falling to the Bearkats, holding their own in a game against the established SHSU men’s rugby team was a marker to the Tigers of how far their club has come. Members of the team see the events of the past weekend as proof that the team is here to play and here to stay.
“It’s more about the success of the program in the long-term than individual victories,” Machingaidze said. “We hadn’t had many scrimmages before that. It was good to get experience and it was also good to show the university that we are an experienced club. We’re here to play.”