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So when you look at this weekend’s match between SFGG and OPSB, on a DI level its key role is not for standings (OPSB cannot take 1st in the NorCal/Pacific Coast league and SFGG cannot be caught by anyone else), but for the luxury of a tough game.
Certainly, since this is also an Elite Cup game, that matters. But chiefly, Head Coach Grant Wells is looking for a challenge.
“When you’re winning almost every game by 50 points you’ve got o set
different goals and benchmarks,” said Wells. “We set goals over and above
the result. We’re also able to rotate players, so we are able to develop
some depth in spots. The idea is to be able to stay sharp even when we
change players around. And then getting into the starting 15, or event the
starting 22, becomes a real accomplishment because we have so many players
vying for spots.”
So the good news for the opposition is, SFGG is good, and they’re deep, too.
The leadership of Mose Timoteo and Danny LaPrevotte has taken the team forward, and Wells said the team is much fitter this year than last. Among the younger players, former Cal flanker Tom Rooke has been slotting in at lock and surprised many with his play.
“He is playing some really good rugby,” said Wells. “He just gets on with it and gets the job done.”
Neil Barrett, who is battling with USA player Chris Biller for time at hooker, has been outstanding. Barrett rising to the challenge is an excellent example of what SFGG can do with their reserves.
But the worry remains on Treasure Island that complacency might set in. It’s all been so easy for SFGG. Even their opening league match, a January 5 defeat of OPSB 35-7, was easier than expected.
Wells is trying to clarify with his team that the OPSB they played in
January was not the Beach squad they will face in Seattle this weekend.
OPSB has most of their top players available (Mike Palefau is in Hong Kong
with the USA 7s team), and will be playing at home.
“I do think our guys really want it this year,” said Wells. “They’ve been working hard, and Karl Thomson and I have been working well together as coaches and trying to set up a system that lets the players play. But we have to be aware that this will be a tough game. We lost to OPSB three times last year. We can’t forget that.”