RUGBY EVENT PROMISES HIGHLIGHTS
“... (15-MAN) RUGBY IS MUCH MORE CHALLENGING TO SELL TO THE PUBLIC THAT HAS NOT BEEN EXPOSED TO RUGBY BECAUSE IT’S A VERY COMPLICATED GAME ... (15-MAN RUGBY) IS ALMOST LIKE CHESS ... AND SEVENS IS A LITTLE MORE LIKE CHECKERS OR TIDDLYWINKS — A LOT OF ATHLETICISM AND A LOT OF RUNS.”
SASKATOON — Some of the best male and female Ultra Sevens rugby players in Saskatchewan will be putting their skills on displaySaturday in a series of games that Ultra Sevens lead coordinator Karl Fix promises to be “an ongoing highlight reel.”
The Prairie Fire men’s and women’s teams will be taking on the North Saskatchewan Wolverines at 4:30 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. at the Regina Rugby Union grounds.
The men will be competing for the Shane Thompson Cup — named after the former Prairie Fire player and coach. The women are squaring off for the Julie Foster Cup. Foster, from Regina, has a long list of national and international playing experience and is coaching the Prairie Fire Ultra Sevens women’s team.
Ultra Sevens rugby is a relatively new concept that was spearheaded by Fix. The men’s Prairie Fire prevailed over the Wolverines 110-49 in front of 1,000 fans in the inaugural game last year and the game lived up to the ‘highlight reel’ label that has been placed upon it.
“(Spectators) sat there for an hour and a half — they enjoyed the game because there was a lot of exciting runs and there was a lot of exciting scoring,” Fix said.
Peni Lutudromu, a sevenman rugby player his whole life, played Ultra Sevens with the Prairie Fire for the first time last year and enjoyed the new game.
“I was surprised myself that I liked this game,” said Lutudromu, the current coach of the Prairie Fire Ultra Sevens.
According to Fix, one of the main factors that makes the game so enjoyable for the players and fans is the simplicity of it. Blended in with the simplicity of Ultra Sevens are several aspects that come from more familiar sports like hockey, basketball and football.
“One of the things that I’ve found is that (15-man) rugby is much more challenging to sell to the public that has not been exposed to rugby because it’s a very complicated game,” he said. “I always say (15-man rugby) is almost like chess — very complicated — and sevens is a little more like checkers or tiddlywinks — a lot of athleticism and a lot of runs.”
I think people in Canada will like this style of rugby because it’s similar to what they watch in football — I think that’s why Karl brought the Ultra Sevens to people in Canada,” added Lutudromu.
In 15-man rugby, the game is made up of two 40-minute halves whereas Ultra Sevens games have four 15-minute quarters, similar to football.
In Ultra Sevens, coaches are allowed to make strategic substitutes at any time, like in hockey, instead of during a dead ball. As shown in last year’s match, points are scored quickly and in waves, not unlike a basketball game.
The popularity of Ultra Sevens is certainly not only found in Saskatchewan. The Calgary Mavericks are to meet the Edmonton Gold in the inaugural Battle of Alberta on July 4 in Calgary. With Ultra Sevens teams sprouting within relatively close proximity, Fix is eyeing up the possibility of creating a league.
Lutudromu, a native of Koro Island, Fiji, took the Ultra Sevens game back to his home country in January in an effort to grow the sport on a global scale. Sevenman rugby is immensely popular in Koro Island, but according to Lutudromu, the fans and players alike thoroughly enjoyed the new format.
Not lost in the campaign to raise awareness for the sport is Lutudromu’s focus on preparing his players for their game Saturday.
“I’ve been telling them to go out there and have fun: ‘Just worry about yourself, do what you do best when you get in there,’ ” Lutudromu said. “‘Go out there and have fun, you will win the game.’ "