COLUMBIA, S.C. – It has been more than two months since Life University’s varsity side has taken to the pitch for a match. So, to say the boys from Marietta, Ga., are excited for their Jan. 31 match against South Carolina may be an understatement.
The majority of the squad returned to campus prior to Jan. 12 to begin training after a well-deserved break, and have been focusing on conditioning the past three weeks.
Saturday’s match against South Carolina will be the first of three tests for the Running Eagles’ top side before opening Mid-South play Feb. 28 against Davenport. Given the University’s geographical location, Life struggles to find competitive matches in its region. The less-than-ideal number of matches brings an added importance to Life’s contest against South Carolina as well as its February dates against Navy and Clemson.
“It’s very important,” Head Coach Tui Osborne said of his team’s limited time against opposition in the next month. “We want to get our pattern going, and make sure everyone is running it right. The match [against South Carolina] will be a good opportunity to capture some film so we can see what we need to fix and get everyone on the same page.”
Osborne and his staff are very confident in the capabilities of both their backline and forwards, but with a lighter group filling out the forward pack there has been an added emphasis on the set scrum during training sessions.
“We’re going to have to work a bit on our scrums,” said Osborne, who took over head coaching duties for Life’s undergrad program after Dan Payne was promoted from Associate Athletic Director to Athletic Director at Life. “We don’t have the heaviest pack, so we’ll have to do a bit of adjusting in that area.”
As far as Saturday’s opponent, the Running Eagles haven’t had a chance to watch them on film. With limited knowledge about the Gamecocks, D1A Rugby’s No. 2-ranked team will simply react to what is thrown at them, and focus on their own strengths and weaknesses.