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While Garrett Bender has claimed the newly-vacated roster spot, Bender will have some work to do to get major minutes. As Head Coach Al Caravelli says often, you have to earn your minutes.
So if you expect to see Mark Bokhoven and Zack Test at the prop and hooker spots, and if you expect to see Shalom Suniula and Folau Niau at the halfback positions, Roland Suniula and Mike Palefau sharing time at center, and Maka Unufe and Miles Craigwell sharing time at wing, who does that leave?
Bender is a backup forward. Peter Tiberio is a backup scrumhalf/wing. That leaves two more – Colin Hawley and Andrew Durutalo. With all respect to Hawley, who is a terrific player and enormously versatile – he can probably play any position on the 7s field, the guy who could emerge because of Hawkins getting the flu is Andrew Durutalo.
The New York-born, Fijian and Japanese-trained player looked like he had promise. But he has joined camp with even more purpose this time around. Caravelli is enormously high on him, because what he has in Durutalo is a really physical, strong big guy.
“If you get tackled by Andrew straight-on, you lose the ball,” enthused Caravelli. His new prop, who made his debut for the USA 7s team in South Africa, also has skills. He can pass with accuracy and distance from both hands, he can run and, did we mention he’s built like a block of granite?
Despite being forced into some surprise roster moves, Caravelli is often reluctant to make a big change unless it’s thrust upon him. Not to knock Hawkins, who brings effort, intelligence, and skill to the prop position, but Caravelli likes to make sure a new player has forced his way in. That can make it tough if a player has two minutes in a game to prove himself.
Now we will know. If Durutalo can play, and many feel he most certainly can, this is his chance.