Players added: Ben Tarr, Nick Wallace, Luke White, Geogi Tsverava, Garrett Brewer, Armandt Peens, Mose Timoteo, Jack Bristol
Players Subtracted: Justin Pauga (Barbarians), Casey Rock, Douglas Graves, Mike Kenyon, Zack Kennedy
Coaching Changes: Andre Bachelet, James Paterson and Dan Power for the backs and Casey Rock and Nic Johnson for the forwards
Team Leaders: Zach Fenoglio
Players to Watch: Zach Fenoglio, Nick Wallace, Christian Wiessing, Cristian Sarmento, Mike Graham, Chad London, Armandt Peens, Garrett Brewer
Warm-up Matches: None due to weather.
The Glendale Raptors were the team of 2014 on their way to a massively successful regular season. Unfortunately for them SFGG ruined the dream season with a victory at Infinity Park in the final. This year the Raptors have reinforced their roster to help push themselves over the edge and to earn a title. That’s especially true in the forwards. If there was a weakness in their game last year it was in their forward play. In response Glendale have bolstered their frontline with Eagles Ben Tarr and Nick Wallace. Tarr is still young and a project but Walllace, along with Zach Fenoglio, will give the team an added presence up front. Adding Jack Bristol from the Air Force Academy gives them a big body in the locks to replace Rock.
Glendale have also taken a couple of players away from rivals SFGG. Mose Timoteo moved to Denver to be closer to his girlfriend and will be turning out for the Raptors. Although he’s one of the older players in the competition there was no question he was still one of the best last season. Also joining the team from the Bay Area is Garrett Brewer that will give the backline a little big more punch.
Expect the Raptors to once again pride themselves in scoring tries. Chad London and Preston Bryant were phenomenal last year in that category and they were able to bury teams before then even had a chance to get the ball for long stretches. The Raptors will look to play an expansive game that takes advantage of their fitness.
To get more on the club to start the season we spoke with head coach Andre Snyman.
PRP: What are the team’s goals this season as well as strengths and weaknesses?
Andre Snyman: After a great season last year and being rated # 7, we played ourselves to the top. This year it will or might be different. We have set a standard for ourselves and showed some critics that we can actually play rugby. I do believe that we will be very competitive and take every game “one step at a time.” We also set ourselves a goal to be back in the top half of the table and to have a shot at being in the top two spots.
Positives – We have really great running backs with some speed but we also have some great ball carriers and play makers, which is a good balance to have in the backs. Our forwards are very mobile and we can move the big pack teams around.
Negatives – dues to the fact that we have a smaller pack that’s mobile, we might give up some weight at scrum time and height in the line outs but we will still be competitive!
PRP: You’ve added Ben Tarr and Nick Wallace, two capped Eagles, to your front line. Do you think that gives you the best prop pair in the competition?
AS: We are very fortunate to have these two players in our club and I think they will make a difference and bring some experience to our forward pack. There are good props out there and the competition will be great but I do think we might have a great international frontrow in Ben Tarr, Zach Fenoglio and Nick Wallace
PRP: What position do you see Garrett Brewer playing this Spring?
AS: Garrett is a great athlete and good player. We just want him to find his feet in our structure and systems. I’m thinking of using him at fullback and flyhalf.
PRP: What did you learn from your first year in the PRP and what are you going to do differently this year?
AS: We learnt that the game is beginning played at a faster pace/speed and the decision making should be better. The difference between a good team and a great team is the reaction time. We also learnt that penalties will hurt you and put you back. Ball possession is key!!
PRP: You have a strong group of assistant coaches. What do you think they offer the younger players?
AS: They can offer the younger players their rugby experience and mentor them. It’s always good to put back into the game and learn from past players and what worked for them. It also helps me, the head coach, to move around the team and spend more time with other players. These coaches allow the team to do unit sessions whereas in the past, everybody had to do the same drills or skills. Now we can break the team up in units and the 9/10 players can work together, the back three can work together and the forwards can split into unit too now.
PRP: Chad London and Preston Bryant had phenomenal seasons last year. This year more teams will focus on them. How do you plan to counteract that?
AS: I’m very fortunate to have these caliber players. If other teams are going to be focusing on them, we might have to play with the players around them. I do believe that we have the players and structures to do that and counteract the other teams.
PRP: Has there been a rise in interest in the club since joining the PRP?
AS: Yes, we get emails and inquiries on a weekly basics. It also helps to have the best rugby facility in the USA and most players would like to play at the highest level and use our facility.