May 1, 2013
Varsity Cup National Championship: May 4, 1 p.m. MT/2 p.m. PT, Provo, Utah, on South Field (Map) | Tickets | Live Webcast on YouTube | Varsity Cup Website | CRC 7s Tickets | Register as a Fan, Player or Parent | Facebook | Twitter
BERKELEY - California rugby head coach Jack Clark spoke Wednesday about the Golden Bears' challenge in the Varsity Cup National Championship Saturday in Provo, Utah, where Cal will face BYU on the Cougars' home field.
Following are excerpts from coach Clark's comments.
How daunting of a task is it to play BYU on South Field, where the Cougars have never been beaten by a college side?
"It will be a steep challenge, no doubt, but so was winning in 2011 in Salt Lake City, which was hardly a neutral site. Listen, it's a difficult ask because they're a talented team no matter where the match is contested."
Didn't Cal beat BYU on campus in Provo in 1983?
"Yes, we did. I think the point BYU is making is that victory wasn't at South Field, where they play today. It was contested at its predecessor field. Interesting side note to this 1983 match is that one of the BYU players was college football coach Mike Leach, now coaching at Washington State. It was an impressive BYU team but we came away with a big victory."
Brigham Young reports it only has 20 losses in the last 21 years. Cal has a lifetime 9-1 mark vs. the Cougars. Does this imply that the Bears have BYU's number?
"Nope, it means nine previous Cal teams beat them. Our 2013 team hasn't. BYU is the defending national champions and nothing beyond that matters in this contest."
BYU midfielder Paul Lasike is also a running back on the Cougars football team. What kinds of problems does he create for the Rugby Bears?
"He is a strong, fast ball carrier, but what makes him a true threat is he's a New Zealander who has played rugby his whole life. He's more than an athlete; he's a skilled rugby player. And remember, he's one of many good players on the BYU team."
Cal has struggled with injuries this season more than any in recent memory. How does this affect the Bears' chances on Saturday?
"It is of no help. We need to overcome the losses of some really good players. We've lost a half-dozen starters for the season. Among them, Brad Harrington, Ahmed Chehade, Paul Bosco and Anthony Lombardo were arguably the best players in collegiate rugby at their positions, so their absences are felt. We've also copped a few injuries in the last few matches, which has led to chopping and changing our lineup and asking guys to play out of position. Our players have been great about just getting on with it without much drama."
The Varsity Cup is being billed in the rugby press as the consensus national collegiate championship. Is that a fair description?
"Probably fair but we can only speak for ourselves. To us it's the national championship, nothing more or less. We acknowledge there is a second championship being contested, but this other competition isn't comprised of the winners of 31 of the 33 national championships like the Varsity Cup. I'll let others enjoy the debate, but on the Varsity Cup campuses, there is no debate."
What makes Cal vs. BYU so special?
"I think it's the all-or-nothing aspect. We're either playing them in a single-elimination match or in the national championship title match. We haven't played all that many matches, only 10, but there's been everything on the line each time. Just like Saturday. Both teams have had excellent seasons, but there can only be one winner now."