The High School All Americans have an early wakeup call as they take the ferry Thursday across the Rio de la Plata from Montevideo, Uruguay to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The HSAA team is 3-1 so far on their South American tour, having just beaten Uruguay U19s 23-22 to split their series (Uruguay won the first game 17-15).
The team has battled some injuries. They lost lock Stuart Harr to a broken collarbone, and have already lost Fitout Fisiiahi to injury earlier in the tour. The doctor bills are piling up, but at the same time, the players are responding.
“It’s exhausting, but really good,” Harr said of the tour. “To train with these guys and coaches and to represent your country makes it all worth it.”
The players responded well to the Uruguayan challenge on won their second match, after which all the players had a meal together.
“We didn’t really talk about rugby at all,” said Vili Toluta’u, whose game time was all of 30 seconds, as he was sin-binned for the remainder of the game after coming on as a sub. “Mostly we just talked about girls.”
Toluta’u is part of a large and impressive Hawaiian contingent on the team (one Uruguayan report was talking about all the Samoans on the squad, missing the fact that the USA has its own state in the Pacific).
“We trained a lot together to get ready for this,” said Toluta’u, “but coach has made us mix up during the tour.”
Head Coach Salty Thompson changes the players’ roommates at every stop, and makes sure players room with guys they don’t know.
“It’s all part of it,” said the Coach.
The tour is just over two weeks, and during that time the HSAA squad will have logged five matches.
“That’s why we took 32 players,” said Thompson. “And we’re fortunate because we’re very deep at prop right now, possibly more so than at any time at this level. That’s been hugely important. But I said we needed all the players to contribute and that’s true, we really have.”
It’s worth noting that Thompson started six seniors against Uruguay on Wednesday, seven juniors, and two sophomores. Five of the seven starting backs (minus scrumhalf Isaiah Chinen, and fullback Greg Wood) were underclassmen.
“We’ve got kids that would qualify for U17s,” he said.
So Saturday’s game against Argentina’s U18s should be no problem, right?
“We always knew this was going to be a big stretch for us,” said Thompson. “But we’ve won three; we feel this is a successful tour. Now we’re going to test the players again. It’s a big challenge but the players have shown they are up for the challenge."
The High School All Americans take on Argentina U18s, Los Pumitas, on Saturday.