LANGLEY — On Saturday, in a 2:30 p.m. clash at the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby centre, the young Trinity Western Spartans men’s rugby team will mark its first match in the inaugural Coastal Cup series as its’ first-ever 15’s meeting with the powerful, tradition-laden UBC Thunderbirds.
In advance of that match, Varsity Letters got a hold of Trinity Western head coach Andrew Evans for four rugby questions, covering the gamut from a surprise addition to his starting XV, to daunting task of facing both the Thunderbirds and Victoria Vikes on a now regularly-scheduled basis.
Varsity Letters: The Coastal Cup is filled with wall-to-wall opposition for a Spartans team that is the baby on the block in terms of longevity. And you start things off on the road with the dynamo in blue-and-gold. Your thoughts?
Andrew Evans: We’re so aware of how strong the UBC program is and that has been a big motivator for us. A lot of their forward pack was just with Canada to prepare for the World Cup qualifiers, so we know how strong that pack is. You watch UBC play and they are so well-coached. We want to give them a quality match. We want to upset them. We really respect them but we don’t want to write ourselves off at the same time. They have been very motivating for us, and we really want to have that rivalry. I think that will be very healthy for us.”
VL: Contrasting a very youthful side, it’s key to note that Canadian international Guiseppe du Toit, a past assistant coach with your program, has elected to return to school to study in a master’s program, and thus will pull on the No. 12 sweater and man his inside centre position Saturday?
AE: I have known Guiseppe since he was 17 and he’s always been always mature beyond his years. Not every rugby player has that composure at such a young age. He’s had a very successful career as a pro (with the Toronto Arrows) and as an international player (highlighted by appearing for his country art the 2019 World Cup). He’s a young 26 and he’s still eligible for university competition this year. The majority of our team is just entering their third years, so to have an actual player who has been through the process added amongst all our youth and potential is really just invaluable. Really, it’s been a miracle. God provided what we needed.
VL: You been able to open more opportunities for graduating high school-aged players the past few years as you’ve stocked the program, but you’ve also scoured the globe and brought in young internationals as well. Who are some of those players?
AE: Keegan Marengo at No. 10 is a very good triple-threat and he is from (Johannesburg) South Africa. He played for Golden Lions in the Currie Cup before joining us so he’s had more rugby than most young people his age. He’s looked very good in training. Tamilore Awonusi is a 6-7 winger from (Dublin) Ireland. He has good aerial skills, good ball runner, and pretty good strike runner as well, so if we get those guys going it’s going to be really fun for people to watch our attack.
VL: The rugby scene in B.C. is really picking up steam coming out of the pandemic. On Thursday, news broke that the 2022 Canadian University Championships will be hosted by UBC. The 2021 version is set for Kingston, Ont. (Nov. 24-28 at Queen’s University), and the top two university teams between UBC, Victoria and yourselves, as determined by the Coastal Cup, get to take part. After no games last season, how good does it feel for your team to have something to play for?
AE: You have the two best university teams in North America in our league in UBC and Victoria. We know if we can win this game, we have got a really solid chance to be in Kingston in November. We also have a game against UVIC, so we don’t want to delay in performing. We know there is a lot on the line and we want to go Kingston in November and play in the snow and bitter cold and whatever rugby in November in Kingston looks like. We desperately want to be there.
For more on:
Trinity Western’s Mark Janzen on the Spartans’ starting XV for Saturday’s match at UBC: Click here.
All of the teams taking part in the new Coastal Cup series: Click here.
UBC playing the host role for the 2022 Canadian University Rugby Championships: Click here.
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