Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Austin Blacks 7s blaze a new trail en route to Seattle

The Austin Blacks sealed a trip to Tukwila, WA for a place in Pool D of the USA Rugby Club 7s National Championships by tenaciously winning two Red River Rugby Conference (RRRC) 7s qualifying tournaments and placing second in the final tournament. Yes, this is THE Austin Blacks, the Texas XVs powerhouse that has never really made a serious punch at 7s. Now they face the always-the-bridesmaid-never-the-bride Denver Barbarians, the vaunted New York Athletic Club and the Pacific Rugby Premiership's Santa Monica Dolphins in Day 1 of the 7s NC.

A year and a half ago, the Austin Blacks started considering 7s as a pathway to rugby success in the US. Team Manager Jacob Liberman, also the 7s coach for the University of Texas, gathered several players who had plenty of experience playing 7s, including Tane Jericevich, formerly of the Scotland Thistles, Scotland 7s, Italy's Serie A professional rugby competition AND Atlantis 7s, as the coach. Liberman says, "This team took the coach's unselfish style of play and combined it with the Blacks culture of rugby success to pull out a tough RRRC 7s season for a trip to Seattle."

The Blacks began the season with the end in mind: their goal was to qualify for the 7s NC. This proved a daunting task in Texas because so many teams have plenty of experience. But after cinching the qualifying bid in Tulsa, the club has been "fund-raising like crazy" to raise the ~$10,000 needed to make the trip. Additionally, Coach Jericevich says they have been practicing five days a week for the past five weeks "to put themselves in a mental and physical state to make the fewest mistakes."
Austin Blacks 7s after clinching the RRRC qualifying bid in Tulsa
Liberman speaks highly of the coach and the team: "Tane's done a tremendous job. Rugby teams take on the personality of their coach. The Austin Blacks qualified for nationals by playing tough, composed, unselfish rugby. Tane holds the players to a high standard and leads by example. Its been fun to watch." Liberman and Jericevich both think that everyone on the team has developed substantially over the summer.

Coach Jericevich especially enjoys the environment for coaching because the players are ready to play and to win. Tane displays confidence toward this weekend stating, "The teams that make the least mistakes will advance. If we get that right - approach the games mentally ready - we stand a good chance to make it far in Seattle."

2014 Austin Blacks 7s
Tane Jericevich (Coach)
Brad Vaughn
Chris Gruba
Jacob Moore
Joedee Reyes
Levi Kereti
Matt Radzavich
Pete Kanicki
Rick Darrow
Rickey Johnson
Seth Saunders
Skylar Talley
Will Burns

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