Sac State men’s rugby club aims to become official varsity team

After 19 years, the club will be competing in nationals again


Photo courtesy of Sac State Sports Clubs

Sac State men’s rugby club captain John Joshua Bocalan Reyes safely receives a pass from his teammate during a game. The rugby team qualified to compete in Nationals after their Pacific West Sevens Tournament win.

The Sacramento State men’s rugby club is focused on becoming an official varsity team for Sac State after their recent win of the Pacific Western Sevens Tournament.

The ruggers will now be competing in the USA Rugby Division 1-AA Sevens for the first time since 2000, almost two decades later. According to the sports club, their goal for the 2020 season is to increase their competition to participate in the NCAA.

The Sac State club has players of all sizes and skill levels, many with high school experience, and others like senior Ronald June Walker who had played rugby for the very first time in his life with the club.

“Initially I was only coming out just because I wanted something to do, but after playing I really started to like it,” Walker said. “I’m a really competitive person and I hate losing so I took the initiative to take rugby more serious.”

The team plays in both the sevens and fifteens formats against tier one teams such as Stanford University and Chico State. Rugby matches are typically played in 40 minutes halves with 15 players on each time, however, the sevens format features team competing in seven minute halves with seven players on each side.

In his first year with the men’s rugby team, head coach Steve Seifert said he has committed to having a practice plan at every session to empower the team to success.

“Their training sessions are now more intense with a lot more structure and technique, there aren’t any random drills,” Seifert said. “Everything is more specific and in-depth. That benefits each specific player, which will help on the field.” 

Seifert holds 90-minute practices three times a week at the field by Yosemite Hall. According to Sac State’s registration policies, intramural sports are not given priority registration, making scheduling practice multiple times per week problematic for the rugby team. 

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“I try to be mindful, my goal is to never pass the 90-minute mark,” Seifert said. “They need to have time to re-fuel up after class, practice and work.”

Players are also given mixed martial arts training and are taught key methods such as how to properly fall to the ground after impact to prevent injuries on the field. The club also has two CPR-certified safety officers on the team in case of a serious injury.

“With the structure the new coach set, everything started to fall into place right away, that’s how much of an impact he had,” said team captain John Joshua Bocalan Reyes.

Jasmin Acosta
Sac State men’s rugby club captain John Joshua Bocalan Reyes poses for a photo at The University Union. Reyes is a second-year transfer Criminal Justice major who has been playing rugby since high school.

After a rough season in 2018, the second-year rugger Walker said having a brotherhood with his teammates motivated him to have higher expectations for himself this season.

“With rugby, you really have to play as a team, it’s not an individual sport,” Walker said.“You have to know that your team is there ready, set, in line, waiting for the ball to move, it’s not just you on the field.”

According to Seifert, Sac State has provided support through a $25,000 investment on safer goalposts for the rugby team. However, the club organizes primary funding sources by holding Crab Feed fundraisers and other events such as alumni games and kickoff tournaments.

RELATED: Men’s rugby team rejoins Division I-A, aims for national success

University of the Pacific rugby alumni and local attorney Matthew Eason has provided subsidized bus travel for the rugby team which has greatly impacted the club.

The team currently has 42 official players and aims to reach a total of 60 members through social media platforms and recruitment events according to Seifert.

Seifert and other players regularly attend championship games and high school games to bring notoriety to the Sac State rugby club and recruit interested players.

The Hornet ruggers will be playing against San Jose State for their first home game of the 2020 season Jan. 25 at Cordova High School at 12 p.m.