An intense, physical 42-15 win over the Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils could be just preparation the Riverside Rapids need for their AAA Tier 2 high school rugby semi-final Thursday against Southridge secondary in White Rock.
But Rapids couch Darren Mackenzie said that intensity and ability to match any opponent tackle for tackle was forged even before the season began.
“It isn’t for the faint-hearted,” Mackenzie said of his pre-season workout regime that included laps, sprints, bear crawls, and push-ups that pushed the team’s 23 players to their physical limits.
He said the mental resolve the players develop to get through the physical test has also paid dividends, propelling the team to five wins and just one loss this season and a third seeding heading into the playoffs.
“I set the bar very high,” Mackenzie said, adding some players who struggled to complete 10 push-ups in those initial workouts are now able to do 100 or more. “I try to explain it is the unseen work they do that pays off, and we can see who is doing this work.”
Mackenzie said a professional approach to the game has led the Rapids to one championship — in 2017 — and a fourth place last season, when the team was hobbled in its final games by injuries to several key players. More importantly, the attitude and work ethic has passed from the veterans to the young players like Grade 9 prop, Nick Cubillos.
“He has been a standout,” Mackenzie said of the first-year player who’d never before played rugby prior to joining the Rapids.
He said newcomers like Cubillos are also attracted to the Rapids’ program by its high standards and matching expectations.
“Young men want to learn a new sport, be challenged and learn to win,” Mackenzie said. “Learning to win is tough, it requires effort, sacrifice and even pain.”
Much like some of the challenges they’ll face in life away from the pitch.
“To achieve great things, we have to work at it,” Mackenzie said.
• The Terry Fox Ravens will play Fleetwood secondary in Thursday’s other semi-final. The Ravens defeated the Gleneagle Talons 78-0 last week.