Tigers in Africa?
There will be soon as the Tigers descend on Nairobi for the 16th edition of the Safari 7s. The American boys are hoping to make a big splash despite a world class field featuring the national teams of Kenya, Samoa and Spain, not to mention the emerging Boks, Auckland, Samurai, Bristol and British Army. The team will be traveling as The Tackling Cancer Tigers, as they strive to bring awareness to the rugby community based Cancer foundation.
Similar to the Barbarians, the concept for the Tigers is to build a team with a core group of some of the top players in the country, in order to be able to challenge the highest caliber international teams. Though littered with current and former Eagles, Tiger Rugby seeks to include some young players on each tour, in order to give them exposure at the highest level of competition. The ultimate rugby objective would be to broaden the base of experienced rugby players from which USA 7s team Head Coach Al Caravelli and the national team can select.
7-a-side rugby is experiencing explosive growth within the United States and the Tigers have been at the forefront for a number of years. To date, Coach Walker's Tigers have competed in a number of 7s tournaments across the world, including South Africa, Fiji, Argentina and Tahiti.
"Traveling is part of the whole rugby experience. It develops the camaraderie and friendship within the squad. Guys make friends for life through rugby. It's is a wonderful experience," said Walker.
The team is comprised of a nice balance of youth and experience, drawing from players across the country. The squad will captained by evergreen former Eagles skipper Riaan Hamilton, who will be joined by capped players such as Ata Malifa, Alex Ross, and Peter Sio.
James has also elected to add youngsters Nick Brandenstein from 1823 and Mike Shea from SDSU to see how they cope against the higher level of competition.
“Both these boys have real talent, and I’m excited to see if they can make the step up to this level,” enthused Coach Walker. “Don’t forget we also have a guy in Taylor Howden, who in my opinion is very close to cracking a nod with the national team. Maybe this is just the boost he needs to take that extra step up. He certainly has all the tools at his disposal.”
"The more exposure American rugby players have to international standard 7s tournaments, the better. Every year we come up against well established names in World Rugby and every year we hold our own and progress as a team. Getting U.S. players competing at this level on a regular basis will undoubtedly contribute to the development of the sport in the United States" said Walker
“We are very excited to be representing American rugby, and hope to show the top teams that we have come a long way in this version of the game. Obviously it’s going to be a monster challenge for us with very little preparation together, but I’m convinced we can make that work in our favor.” said Walker. “We are also honored to be representing the Tackling Cancer Foundation as they look to increase their standing within the community. Last but certainly not least, we are looking forward to a long and successful relationship with apparel vendor American Sin Bin, who just teamed up with us last week.”
The squad as a whole is committed to playing good rugby, but perhaps more importantly making a great impression. They will be the first U.S based team to play at the Safari 7s, and will have a full week of training mixed in with philanthropic activities as they pay a visit to play with kids at a local orphanage, and hold a rugby clinic for some of Kenya’s youngest stars.
"This is what rugby is all about,” said Walker. “Visiting communities, coaching kids and spending time with our hosts. A fantastic experience."
Watch out for updates from the Tigers trip to the Safari 7s.
Follow the Tigers progress at www.Facebook.com/tiger.rugby
For more on Tackling Cancer, please visit our website; http://www.tacklingcancer.org/
Coach – James Walker
Assistant Coach – Paul Holmes
Manager - Billy Gardner
Camera –Mitchel Nieto
Riaan Hamilton (C)
2. Springbok A
7. Tackling Cancer Tigers
10. British Army
16. Shujaa (Kenya A)