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An inside look at USF’s Rugby Club

USF’s club rugby team beat Florida 96-0 earlier this month and will travel to play against Florida State this weekend. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/THOMAS PRETTYMAN

The USF men’s Rugby Club is ranked No. 1 in Florida after defeating the University of Florida 96-0 on Feb. 10.

But what does it take to be a member of a top-ranked sports club?

“What makes a good rugby player is being able to overcome the physical limitation that you have by having mental strength,” said club President Murray Alford. “What I mean by that is, when it comes down to it, are you able to dig deep enough and is you’re headstrong enough to be able to come out on top.”

Passion, integrity, solidarity, discipline and respect are the core values of the men’s Rugby Club and, according to Alford, there is more than just the physical aspects of the game. To play for the USF men’s rugby club a player should possess all those attributes and more.

One of the smaller members of the team is captain Jordan Haggard.  According to Alford, Haggard shows that the size of a man’s heart is what matters most.

“When you see Jordan, he looks like a small little kid,” Alford said. “He is a guy that is maybe 5 feet 8 inches on a good day and 135 pounds. He is not a big guy at all … he is just that guy where you look at him and you think, yeah right, I am going to run this guy over and the next thing you know you are on your a**, and then you think: ‘How did I get here?’”

While the captain of the team, as it pertains to rugby, is on the smaller end of the physical spectrum, the Bulls are not without the big, bruising athletes that can change the course of a match with physicality and intimidation.

“We have a guy by the name of Rafael Rodriguez but we call him Rafa or Sasquatch,” Alford said. “If it is down to the last seconds of the game and we need that try to win, I am dishing the ball out to that guy … he just has this mentality of, ‘listen, if you are going to line up across from me you better be the baddest of the bad because I am coming at you with everything I’ve got.’”

Rodriguez is not the only physical specimen on the team. Alford, who is from Zimbabwe, is 6 feet 4 inches, 210 pounds. He’s looking to take his talents to the next level in Atlanta, where he can play professionally.

In Florida, there are two rugby conferences.

USF is part of the Northern Conference along with Florida State University, University of North Florida and University of Florida. Earning a top-two seed in the conference is necessary for postseason play.

“The top two teams advance to the semifinals, so the No. 1 seed from the North [Conference] will play the No. 2 seed from the South [Conference] and the No. 1 seed from the South will play the No. 2 seed from the North,” Alford said. “The winner is given an automatic bid to go to the national championship tournament in North Carolina.”

USF will travel to Florida State University to play its rival in Tallahassee this weekend.