Volume 92, Issue 8

Wednesday, September 16, 1998

wheeling and dealing


Rugby men look for repeat

Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
THE RUNNING OF THE BULLS. By staying out in front, this year's squad should once again lead the charge into the post season.

By Mike Smith
Gazette Writer

Western's men's rugby team are set to kick off their season today on the road against the Waterloo Warriors with high hopes for the year.

The Mustangs, who are the defending Ontario University Athletics champions, are the early season favourites to win the title again as most of the team has returned from last year.

Coach Jerry Slattery was very excited about having all the guys back and is very serious about defending the championship. "The team's key strengths are team speed and skill level," Slattery said. "We have very good decision makers in key positions."

The team has a lot of depth and talent with some of the key players this year including captain Rob Werstine, vice-captain Eddie Gardner, fly-half Simon Rogers, full-back Jesse Henkenhauf and scrum-half James O'Shea. Slattery noted that Gardner, Rogers and Henkenhauf could play on any team in the country and is very impressed with O'Shea who has come into training camp in great condition, ready to take his game to the next level.

Although the team is going to focus on one game at a time, the Oct. 3 rematch against arch-rival Queen's Golden Gaels looks to be the most important match of the regular season. After losing in last year's final, Queen's, a powerhouse in Ontario rugby for the past decade, will be looking for revenge on Western at the Gaels' homecoming weekend.

The McMaster Marauders are also expected to challenge for league supremacy in a tough Ontario division. "There is more pressure going into this season as defending champions," Werstine said. "We want to make sure the team doesn't become complacent in its quest to make the playoffs and take another run at the championship."

Two players that will miss the first two games of the regular season that were expected to bolster the team are Peter Crocker and Erin Abrams. They are currently in Ireland playing on the Canadian under 20 rugby squad. Abrams is a top recruit and is part of a very good recruiting class according to Werstine.

"Western is attracting top recruits across the province because of its increasing reputation as a powerhouse in Ontario rugby," Werstine said.

Slattery said the overseas tours, such as the one to Ireland last spring and the planned tour of South Africa next year, were great competitive and cultural experiences for the team and help in attracting young talent to the program.

After a solid 22-15 pre-season win over the American Navy, ranked fourth in the National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I, the Mustangs look primed for another successful season and a possible repeat of last year's championship run.

Men's Schedule:

Wed. Sept. 16 @ Waterloo 4:00 p.m.

Sat. Sept. 19 @ Guelph 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Sept. 26 vs. Waterloo 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Oct. 3 @ Queen's 1:00 p.m.

Thurs. Oct. 8 vs. Guelph 3:00 p.m.

Sat. Oct. 17 @ McMaster 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Oct. 24 vs. York 1:00 p.m.

Sat. Oct. 31 OUA Semi-finals

(1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3)

Sat. Nov. 7 OUA Finals

To Contact The Sports Department: gazette.sports@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998