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South Carolina captured the first tournament of the SCRC 7s series this past weekend. This was the first of two tune-up tournaments prior to the Collegiate Rugby Championship qualifier in two weeks time.
The Gamecocks are in familiar territory after winning all three of the qualifiers last year. However, South Carolina lost in the semi-finals of last year’s qualifier and Alabama went on to the CRC. This year, the Gamecocks are looking to finish the deal.
One way that South Carolina is attempting to ensure success as the 7s season progresses is by building depth. The Gamecocks entered two teams this weekend, with both reaching the semifinals. The second side is adding tremendous competition to the squad with a number of the players eying first team minutes. With a number of freshmen in the mix, South Carolina is poised to make it through the competition despite any injuries.
Last year USC lost a number of key players to injury during the qualifier and it derailed its campaign. This weekend went a long way to preventing that from happening again. The Gamecocks finished first and fourth overall and did so without three of their starters.
“Playing with the two sides gives a big opportunity to some players that would not normally get a lot of playing time….We will have a lot of experience going into that qualifier tournament and we have a lot more depth this year,” said South Carolina coach Steve Darnell.
South Carolina (I), who won the tournament, swept through two games of pool play and the cup rounds, yielding only three tries on the day. The Gamecocks blanked Alabama in the final 34-0 to take the weekend.
“We were really clicking early and were much more aggressive on defense, rather than waiting for mistakes we are trying to force them now,” said Darnell. “It made a difference. It gave us some quality ball and kept the scoring down.”