Next man up
With just three regular season games remaining, the Glendale Raptors (9-0) retain an unblemished record. Yet despite being leaders atop the Pacific Rugby Premiership (PRP) table, the club faces adversity heading into this weekend’s home match against third-place San Francisco Golden Gate (SFGG).
“We’re obviously feeling mixed emotions,” Raptors head coach Andre Snyman said. “We need to win to secure our place in the final and they need to win to keep their dreams alive. It’s all to play for.”
Glendale will be faced with depth issues, however as Snyman looks to replace the six players the Raptors are losing to the recently formed Professional Rugby Organization (PRO Rugby). The players Glendale will be losing to the PRO league include longtime captain Zach Fenoglio, along with Zach Pauga, Christian Wiessing, Peter Dahl, Martin Knoetze and Dustin Croy. Chad London, Niku Kruger and Hanco Germishuys had already been called up to PRO Rugby and only played two matches with the Raptors this season with America’s Rugby Championship duties.
The losses comprise both forwards and backs as well as players that have contributed in key leadership roles throughout not only this season, but previous PRP campaigns, including last year’s championship.
“We’ve lost six of our starters and I need to replace them with players from DII and the bench,” Snyman explained. “There’s a little bit of chemistry that’s not there with these new players coming in. They need to settle down so we’ve been doing a good job this week working on that.”
In addition to player losses, the Raptors could be faced with inclement weather that includes the possibility of snow and rain on Saturday. That challenge, however, is one that Glendale has dealt with in previous home matches this season.
“With the weather forecast, we’re trying to focus on ball possession,” Snyman said. “We’re going to try to keep the ball close and execute. We can’t give away too many turnovers. I think it’s a familiar situation that our players have been in before. I’m confident that they’ll deal with it.”
Glendale will have to face its challenges against a team they have faced in the past two PRP Finals. SFGG is a team that has given the Raptors fits at home in the past, and despite their current third-place standing, has a realistic shot at a yet another appearance in the Final.
“They’re a team that can’t be taken lightly,” Snyman said of SFGG. “They haven’t taken a step back, they’ve just gotten unlucky in certain games. They have the players to make a difference and pull it off.”
The match kicks off at 3pm MT at Infinity Park following the Denver Barbarians versus Olympic Club match at 1pm MT. Tickets are just $6 and can be purchased online. The match will also be streamed at rugbytown.us/stream.