LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Imagine winning a national championship. Big deal, right? Siena could bring one home this weekend, and it’s barely on the radar.
Why? Rugby isn’t big over here, but the Saints have bought in. They’re headed to the National Collegiate Rugby finals for the first time ever, and they’re doing it in just their first year as a varsity sport. “We see this potential for us to play against the very best colleges in the nation and go on to we hope win those championships as well,” Siena College President Dr. Chris Gibson said.
Rugby has been a club sport for nearly 50 years at Siena, but since the hiring of rugby coordinator Greg Matthew in 2019, the Saints have had their eyes on Division I competition. “The transition over the last three years has really been about setting the basics,” Matthew said. “Providing the opportunities to the players to help develop, help their understanding of the game.”
“And now this is just getting to the peak of where we’re at and setting a new level and a new base where we can now springboard where we can go to what will hopefully be a Division I level next year,” Matthew said.
Matthew handles player recruitment for Siena, and the program has doubled to more than 50 players under his watch. That includes a dozen international players. Two of them, captains Isaac Frost from Manchester, England and Rupert Bronkhorst from Vanderbijlpark, South Africa, are happy to see their leap of faith to Upstate New York pay off.
“We had a little bit of doubt the first time coming to practice and stuff like that,” Bronkhorst, a freshman hooker said. “Everyone just showed us wrong. Everyone was like ‘No we are willing to work, we are willing to do this’ and that’s very fulfilling for us.”
“It shows how dedicated we are to both the sport but also as a team,” Frost, a sophomore fly half said. “Because we’ve all worked, one through 53 and we’ve recruited people along the way.”
“For example,” Frost added. “If you’re not playing people are still helping in the background and I think it’s just that team effort that’s brought us together and it’s brought us here.”
Siena will face the College of Charleston in Houston Friday. If they win, they’ll play the winner of Western Oregon and Wayne State for a small school national title.