Players Added: Sean Mills, Niku Kruger, Brian Wanless, Lynton Mare, Martin Knoetze, James DelBozque, Marshall Godfrey, Casey Rock
Players Subtracted: Preston Bryant, Ben Tarr, Nick Wallace, Jake Turnbull, Jack Haward, Dan Flemming
Team Leaders: Mose Timoteo, Zach Fenoglio, Chad London, Casey Rock
Players to Watch: Hanco Germishuys, Lynton Mare, Dustin Croy, Luke White
Warm-up Matches: Seattle Saracens, lost 14-20
After last year’s final win over rivals SFGG there was a sense of relief for the Glendale Raptors. For two years they had been the top team in the regular season yet were beaten in the final by Golden Gate in the final match in the first year. Not wanting to let that happen they bested SFGG in 2015. At the same time, there was also a sense of continued unfinished business. The Raptors didn’t want to just be the top team in the PRP, they want to be the top team in the country.
“As the defending Champions I think we will be under more pressure to perform and keep the standard or level of play high,” said head coach Andre Snyman. “Everyone will want to beat us and knock us down. It will be a character building season to see if we can stay at the top.”
By and large the core of the team remains from last year. They did lose Preston Bryant to retirement, Ben Tarr back to Australia, and Nick Wallace but at the same time they have gained Niku Kruger, Lynton Mare, Brian Wanless, and an unretired Casey Rock. Both Mare and Wanless were big against Seattle, a tight loss that was their only warm-up match of the season.
Once again Armandt Peens is going to play a big role for the team, as will Mose Timoteo even though he’ll have help from Kruger. Hanco Germishuys should spend most of the year with the club and has been tapped for not only big things with the Raptors but with the Eagles as well.
For the Raptors it’s about getting better than last year and keeping up on what they are doing. “There are no easy games and you can’t be complacent,” Snyman continued. “Every game is a battle and your need to try and get bonus point with every game to be in contention. I do believe that we will be competitive and keep playing the style that got us to the top. Some of the teams strengths are the fact that we are mobile and can scores tries from anywhere but with that said, we might be fighting a battle in the scrums because we are one of the lighter packs in the PRP.
All that said Snyman felt the team had a good style that could play anywhere effectively. “We like to play the conditions and proud of the fact that the team can change or adapt to all conditions. We also like to play a style where hopefully we can play some running rugby and score tries. Balance between backs and forwards.”
Up first for the team is a trip to the Bay Area to play Olympic Club with the following week a trip to OMBAC. That early trip to OMBAC has been difficult in the past and like in the past it’s just one of four straight road games to start the season. If Glendale can come back with a 4-0 record, even after playing SFGG on February 20th, they should be in good position.