The Bayside Sharks’ top men’s rugby team may have been relegated from the premier league to first-division after a disappointing spring, but new head coach Angel Cividanes still plans to make the most of the situation.
So while a premier title is not in the offing this fall, Cividanes – who is replacing Pat Kearney on the sidelines after the latter decided to return to the pitch as a player – said the goal for this season is skill development, especially with regard to the club’s younger players.
“We have a lot of young players on the team this year, and some of them are very, very talented,” said Cividanes. “We’re going to be better and better every week.”
Cividanes was especially excited to work with, and follow the progress of, 19-year-old prop Liam Beaulieu, whom Cividanes – who has experience coaching at the provincial level – said is very much on the radar of Canada’s U20 program.
“He’s going to be a very important name in Canadian rugby,” the new coach said.
And as much as he’s excited about his new crop of players, Cividanes – a native of Argentina – said there is still plenty of room for improvement.
For one, he said the playing system he’s trying to implement – which he called “expansive” – will take some time for his players to adjust to.
Secondly, he said the team’s fitness needs to improve – a problem that was evident two weeks ago in the team’s season-opening loss to UBC.
“One thing we definitely have to do is get fitter, but that’s picking up the last few weeks,” Cividanes said, adding that the team’s been training since mid-August.
The improvement of the team’s younger players will be even more integral to the team’s success, considering the side has lost a pair of players from last year’s premier-division team – Cody Rockson and Gurvinder Kalar, both of whom left for Burnaby Lake, where they could continue playing at the premier level.
Cividanes said it was tough to lose two key members of the team, before adding that he wasn’t losing too much sleep over it.
“We tried to keep them here, but they wanted to keep playing premier, so that’s OK. We understand that. Originally, they both came here from other clubs in order to play premier,” the coach said.
“I’m only going to be worried if players who have grown up at Bayside start going to other clubs, and that hasn’t happened.”
Growing pains aside, Cividanes – a Peninsula resident – said he’s thrilled to be coaching closer to home after spending the last few years coaching with the Meraloma Rugby Club in Vancouver.
“I’m really enjoying it here, and the people with the club have just been great,” he said.
“And it’s nice to live five minutes from the club. Last year, I lived here and was working downtown, too, so it was a bit much – some very long days.
“Sometimes you need a change – you can’t coach the same group of guys for six, seven years… you can see that in any sport.”
The Sharks are 1-1 through two weeks of the Canadian Springs Rugby League season – after their Game 1 loss to UBC, they rebounded last weekend in Kelowna with a win over the UBC-Okanagan Heat.
This weekend, the Sharks travel for a road game against Richmond that Cividanes said “will be a real measure of where we’re at as a team.”