Ruggers look to go global
BY JOHN DINNER
The defending Ontario University Athletic Association Men's Rugby Champs will feature an international flavour for the upcoming school year and if all goes according to plan, for quite some time into the future.
Already perennial contenders, the Mustang squad is hoping to benefit with the addition of James Camp, a 19-year-old rugger from South Africa.
Having visited Western in April of last year, Camp decided he wanted to bring his unique blend of talent, skill and knowledge of rugby to the Mustangs. "When I came here last year I was very impressed with the dedication to rugby and the overall atmosphere here at Western," Camp said.
While only arriving in London just over two weeks ago, Camp has already become aware of what he can bring to Mustang rugby, having watched some club teams play in Toronto over the long weekend.
"The pace of the games in Canada is much different, a bit slower," he said. "Rugby in South Africa has a higher tempo and there is more of an emphasis on forward progress."
This different style is one of the things Camp brings to the Western team. "He's already given me some insights into the game," said men's rugby head coach Gerry Slattery. "He's a very knowledgeable rugby player and that will definitely help our program. We will all learn from each other."
Both Slattery and Camp do foresee a period of adjustment before a serious impact can be made. "In North America there is a far greater emphasis put on training away from the field. Whereas in most other parts of the world there is a greater focus on the game itself," Slattery said.
"I realize that I am a little light to be a forward," Camp said. "I have to work on getting bigger and I will rely on my speed and skill rather than size and strength."
Slattery said the six foot one inch, 190 pound forward will more than make up for his lack of size with other parts of his game.
OUAA Mustang all-star rugger Peter Crocker also saw the addition of international players as a benefit for everyone. "He'll bring a different pace to the game, much faster," he said. "We'll be able to learn new plays and skills from each other and really benefit the program throughout."
The addition of international experience and skill does not simply stop with James Camp. James Taylor, a coach from New Zealand, will be arriving in London in late June to join the Mustangs.
This movement toward more of an international flavour is a deliberate move by Slattery. "It's a direction I have always wanted to go in because it helps us improve our game and learn from each other," he said. "It benefits the whole program. I get to learn new things and by actually bringing in players and coaches, so do our guys."
Slattery wants to continue this direction and is very happy with the way things are going. Another South African player will be visiting Western in the fall with hopes of coming to Canada in September of 1999.
As well Slattery said now he is getting calls from all over the world with respect to Western's rugby program, something he believes will have impact immediately and in the future.