BYU rugby non-scholarship team once again a title favorite

Published: Thursday, April 28 2011 7:00 p.m. MDT

Lubbe, who hails from Durban, South Africa, is not LDS. A recruiter from Utah offered him and a friend the option of playing at BYU or Utah.

"We decided to take a leap of faith and come to BYU. It worked out," Lubbe said. "I had no idea about the rivalry (between BYU and Utah). I figured it out the first time we played them. It was quite a shock."

After Utah, BYU's biggest rival is Cal. The Cougars and Golden Bears have met in the national championship match several times since USA Rugby, the sport's governing body, moved the championship to Saturdays after holding it on Sundays for 20 years. Because BYU teams do not play on Sundays, the Cougars couldn't compete for the title during that two-decade period.

"That was a massive hurdle to overcome," Smyth said.

Many rugby observers are predicting another BYU-Cal championship showdown this season. In one national poll, the Cougars are No. 1 and the Bears are No. 2. In the other, Cal is No. 1 and BYU is No. 2.

"On the national scene, in the last five years, Cal has been a huge rival for us," Smyth said.

There are 31 teams on the premier level of collegiate rugby, which is divided into four conferences. BYU competes in the Western Conference while Cal is in the Pacific Conference. Unlike the rest of the premier rugby programs, Cal's team is fully funded by its athletic department.

Though rugby is an extramural sport at BYU, Smyth said his team receives strong support from the athletic department and the university. Former players make financial contributions as well.

Current Cougar rugby players are grateful for what they have, and they work hard to play the sport they love.

"The players give up a lot of their lives to play for this team," Lubbe said. "We practice as hard as any other team that does get scholarships. BYU's program has come a long ways."

Smyth, who played for the Cougars in the 1980s, knows all about that.

"We've committed ourselves that if we're going to play rugby here, we might as well be the best we can be at it," he said. "If you work at it and you're good, the sacrifices are worth it."

BYU rugby results 2011

Date Result

Jan. 20 BYU 86, Claremont Colleges 0

Jan. 21 BYU 25, San Diego 10

Jan. 22 BYU 69, San Diego State 0

Feb. 11 BYU 64, Penn State 0

Feb. 12 BYU 89, Cal Poly SLO 8

March 5 BYU 40, Utah 22

March 17 BYU 94, Colorado 5

March 19 BYU 95, Air Force 8

March 26 BYU 99, Colorado State 0

April 1 BYU 123, Wyoming 3

April 9 BYU 70, Arizona 12

April 23 BYU 39, Dixie State College 12

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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