For years, Catlin Gabel baseball has been the pride of the athletic department. Recently, CatlinSpeak received intelligence that there is a new sport to cheer for this year: rugby.
As legend has it, rugby started in England in 1823 when a rule-breaking student at the Rugby School picked up the ball during a game of soccer. And now Botswana exchange student Mpho Bowie-Molefe ’13 has brought the madness of (touch) rugby to the upper soccer pitch every Monday and Wednesday afternoon.
Though it’s currently in an infant-developing-the-correct-muscles-to-sit-up-independently stage, Bowie-Molefe says he’s fairly pleased with the progress and positive attitude so far.
“I mean we practice until five in the cold and no one complains,” he says, “and everyone is pretty disciplined and they do what I tell them to. So yeah, I’m pretty happy.”
Not only that, but the Catlin students who have come out so far (present company included) are predisposed to be excellent rugby players: “The stereotype goes that rugby people aren’t really smart. I would say that this is a fair statement.”
Jokes aside, Bowie-Molefe says that “rugby has a lot more than brute force, and a lot of tactics. I think [the Catlin team]”––which mastered a complicated drill called “truck and trailer” in just one practice––“[has] proved that rugby people aren’t specifically unintelligent.”
He also says that he sees some superstar potential among the players who have shown up, including Ben Kiyasu ’13, Craig Robbins ’14, Jamie Bonaparte ’13, and Nama Rosas ’14 (“if he stopped implementing football moves in rugby”). On a scale of one to ten, Bowie-Molefie is at a six in terms of how much he feels like he’s babysitting the rugby team instead of coaching it, but he’s confident that will improve soon.
“There’s some really good guys, so it makes me feel like we can actually end up playing other teams and possibly winning.”
Playing for successful rugby teams is more what Bowie-Molefe is used to. In Botswana, he played for Maru-a-Pula for years before joining the U19 national team, the Vultures. He decided to start the Catlin team based on his experiences back home, and also because he doesn’t think he’s skilled enough to play basketball, which he says “is for hooligans.”
During his time on the national team he traveled to Zimbabwe to represent Botswana, and he had three caps (appearances for his country in an international match) in front of crowds of 5,000 people.
He says that experience––along with playing rugby in general––was fun primarily because of the team aspect. “The thing about being on the team is you have camaraderie and you have a common goal, and I think that’s kind of an important thing in life. So [playing for the Vultures] was a really fun time, and I hope that we can do that here.”
Eventually, Bowie-Molefe also wants the team to play other teams in the Portland area. “But our ultimate goal is to play contact,” he says, “and I feel like the guys are committed enough to make this possible, so I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
That is, if the team can get over playing in the Oregon winter.
“It’s terrible. Like, it’s freezing. It’s always raining,” remarks Bowie-Molefe. “It’s not good for playing rugby. Plus when you get hit in the cold, everything is so much more painful. But, you know, I think rugby is about being men and being strong, so I think we can do it.”
The Eagles practice Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:30-5:30. Contact Mpho at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.