By Elizabeth Chan, Vikes Communications with files from BC Rugby
(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s rugby team will take on the UBC Thunderbirds, Jan. 16, at Centennial Stadium for their second leg of the annual Wightman Boot series this season.
This marks the 44th annual Boot series between the provincial rivals since 1970. The competition is named after the late Brian Wightman, who was a UBC rugby coach from 1964-67. Whichever team totals the most points after the two-game series retains the Boot trophy.
UVic won 17-straight titles until 2014, when the T-Birds dropped the Vikes in both games for an overall score of 51-24. This year, the Vikes need an extra 12 points to beat UBC and reclaim the Boot title. In the first round of the series, on Oct. 25, UVic fell 30-19 in Vancouver.
“UBC is a pretty well-rounded team,” said Doug Tate, Vikes men’s rugby head coach. “Their centre Nate Rees is an attacker who will be difficult to contend with, so it won’t be an easy match.”
Although the Vikes trail by 11 points in the series, coach Tate isn’t too concerned about the deficit.
“We need to remember that this is also primarily a CDI game and we will be focused on getting the win for league points too,” he added. “We’ve come back a lot of times this season, but we’ve also given away momentum too many times.”
Currently, UBC is first in the CDI Premier League standings, four points ahead of UVic. In addition to Rees, the T-Birds also boast key senior Brock Staller, who leads in scoring with 63 points (6 tries, 14 converts).
The Vikes will rely on hooker MacBryan Bos and winger Luke McCloskey, who are consistent try scorers due to their speed and agility. Second-year winger Crosby Stewart will also be a huge asset for penetrating the T-Birds lines.
“We need to take points whenever they’re available,” added Tate. “In the first leg, we gave away penalties and UBC, to their credit, took advantage.”
Second-year Vike Guiseppe duToit will be relied upon to successfully secure those points. The Maple Ridge native is tied with Staller with 63 points in six games (15 converts, 11 penalty kicks).
The Vikes will be forced to compete without key international players Sean Duke, Lucas Hammond, Pat Kay and Justin Douglas who are away with team Canada in preparation for World Championships.
“Playing against UVic is like playing an All-Star team where they have strength in every position, but we know we can match them at any position on the field,” said Rameses Langston, UBC rugby head coach, whose squad will be missing scrum half Jorden Sandover-Best, away in South America competing with the Maple Leafs.
T-Bird Spencer Miller, who played at scrum half in both legs of the Boot Game last year, will be relied upon his ability to distribute the ball.
Both teams will face their first CDI Premier test of the 2015 calendar year this Friday coming back from the winter break.
The second round of the Wightman Boot will kick off at 2 p.m. on Jan. 16 at Centennial Stadium. Video will be broadcast live at bcrugby.com/live.