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Olympic Club and Glendale redo the 2011 DI National Championship Game Saturday on Treasure Island in the opening weekend of the Pacific Rugby Premiership. The Raptors won that meeting 20-15 at Infinity Park in Glendale, Colo.
The rosters have changed significantly since then, and so have the coaching staffs. Mark Bullock was Glendale’s head man then, now he’s the director of rugby and Andre Snyman is the head coach of the Raptors. Ray Lehner was O-Club’s coach then, and he is now, but he took some time off between.
“Sometimes a year off just really gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, and it just feels fresh again coming back,” said Lehner, whose returned to a lineup chocked full of All Americans.
“The team, from a talent perspective, I think we’re as good as we’ve ever been by personnel. We’ve got a bunch of young guys from St. Mary’s who are pretty good rugby players and a couple of guys who’ve been around. Rikus (Pretorius) is back and Keegan (Engelbrecht), so hopefully the coach doesn’t mess them up too much.”
In the front row, O-Club has St. Mary’s All Americans Andrew Cook and Matt Crawford, fellow Gael and current Eagle Nick Wallace and former Eagle Will Johnson, along with San Diego State product Darrell Honaker. The backline is stacked, too, with Colin Hawley, Tim Maupin and Mike Haley.
Glendale, on the other hand, is battling attrition. Fullbacks Iniki Fa’amasili (Denver Barbarians) and Peceli Rinakama (Sacramento Lions) have gone to other clubs, scrumhalf Shaun Davies is with Life, Ata Malifa has switched allegiances and is with the Barbos, Nese Malifa is contemplating retirement as he struggles to come back from a knee injury and prop Chad Slaby has hung up the boots. Zac Pauga and Dewon Reed are still with the club, but not available just yet.
The cupboard is far from bare for the Raptors, though. Veteran Mike Graham moves over to flyhalf, and Justin Pauga and Chad London form a stout midfield. Longtime club guys Max Statler and Dustin Croy, who helped Glendale past O-Club back in 2011, team up with Brett Willis and Preston Bryant for the deep three rotation. Casey Rock, Zach Fenoglio and Doug Graves anchor the pack, with Christian Wiessing – fresh off the plane from South Africa – figuring to factor in early.
Olympic Club has an awful lot of big-name talent that wants to deliver
where its fallen short in the past, and Glendale wants to prove it is a
program capable of reloading instead of rebuilding. Both want to start the
Pacific Rugby Premiership era on the right foot Saturday, which should make
for an exciting contest.