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RFCLA Announces Line-up Against The Utah Warriors this Sunday

Jurie 1
3 months ago

Rugby Football Club Los Angeles (RFCLA) have announced the starting line-up for their fourth match of the 2024 Major League Rugby season against the Utah Warriors on March 24 at 3 p.m. Pacific Time, at home at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Following a 19-18 loss to the San Diego Legion at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego last week, RFCLA are still looking for their first win of 2024. RFCLA are 0-3; the Utah Warriors are 1-2.

“We’ve been focusing all week on starting off strong and finishing strong,” said RFCLA General Manager Mark Carney. “We have an exciting game plan, to make sure we come away with the win.”

RFCLA’s kicking game is going to be very important against Utah, Carney said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re playing the tactical kicking game, retaining as much possession as possible.” RFCLA’s backs will be without inside center James Emery, who Carney said “picked up a knock” against San Diego. “It’s not serious, but we’re giving him the week to rest. We’ve made the decision to go with James [Stokes] inside to help control the game with Dan [Hollinshead].” Hollinshead’s kicking game helped RFCLA maintain possession throughout the match. Stokes helped hold San Diego’s line and made a breakaway run from inside his own half to score a try in the 79th minute. “James has a wealth of knowledge and experience,” said Carney. “He will slot into No. 12 seamlessly.”

Carney said the team has been working hard on their first phase of play coming off scrums and lineouts. RFCLA’s forwards will be eager to capitalize. “If we can secure our set pieces then we can give ourselves a proper shot,” said 30-year-old lock Jurie Van Vuuren.

Jurie (pronounced You-ree) said the RFCLA forwards have been working hard every week since the beginning of the season to improve this aspect of their game, and last week it showed, as they stole several crucial throws from San Diego in the lineouts. “It was nice to see that when it mattered, everything came together,” Jurie said. “We just keep working on it and perfecting our craft.”

Jurie, who is 6’4” and weighs 272 lbs, was born in 1993 in Ladybrand, South Africa. He started playing rugby “as soon as [he] could walk” and after high school — where he played various positions — he played in South Africa’s Super Rugby league and on the under-20 national team side, the Junior Springboks. “That’s when it got serious,’ he said. Jurie still considers himself a “jack-of-all-trades,” and is happy playing lock, flanker or No. 8.

Approached by the Utah Warriors in 2019 while still in South Africa, Jurie said he “was excited” at the prospect of playing in the United States. “I always wanted to play abroad a bit at some point, so I was open to whatever opportunities presented themselves,” he said. “It sounded like they needed the type of player that I am — versatile.”

The biggest shock for Jurie was how little ordinary people in Utah — a state with its own rich rugby history — knew what rugby was. When telling people what he did for a living, he found himself explaining the basics of the sport and encountering what has now become a common refrain in the United States: “You rugby players must be crazy.”

“Often people think we are crazy for playing this sport without any pads because they play [American] football,” Jurie said, laughing. “We think they’re crazy for having no technique.”

American rugby fans, however, did know about the game, Jurie said. In both Utah and Los Angeles, the fans have been “loud, fun, and very passionate.” At RFCLA, he and his teammates make an effort to be in the public eye to bring in new fans and create a rugby community. Sometimes they walk along Hermosa Beach as a team, getting the word out about RFCLA. They also train in a public gym. “We’re always talking to people, always in the public, trying to be salesmen,” Jurie said. “That’s how you’ve got to grow rugby.”

Jurie is optimistic about RFCLA’s potential to build a big, loyal fan base. “Most people, after they’ve gone to their first match, they’re hooked and keep coming back,” he said.

Jurie has embraced the move to Los Angeles, which he made in late 2023, and has settled in well with his teammates. “I’m enjoying it here a lot so far,” he said. “I am impressed with the skill level of the squad as a whole. You have a squad who you can pick from any day and they’ll be ready.”

“We’re beginning to gel — every week a bit more,” he said. “A good result is just around the corner.”

Jurie thinks RFCLA’s roster depth and experience will begin to reap rewards soon. Patience, he said, is crucial, as is trust in their training and strategy.

Jurie is looking forward to the match against his former team. “You never know what to expect from the Warriors,” he said. “They’re a funny team — they have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. You have to be ready for everything.”

They have no particular style of play that you can analyze and seek to exploit, Jurie said, “which is fun in a way.”

“It keeps you on your toes.”

As for RFCLA, Carney said that as the team starts coming together, it is starting to determine “what brand of rugby we want to play.”Jurie thinks RFCLA’s defense will be crucial this week. Utah is a physical team, he said, but “if we keep them out we should be successful.” As for the scrums, he thinks “it’s going to be one big arm wrestle. It will go down to who can stay in the fight the longest.”

RFCLA has made some changes to their starting 15 this week: James Stokes replaces Jason Emery at inside center (No. 12) and Austin White replaces Sam Walsh at full-back (No. 15). Will Leonard comes in at outside center (no. 13) Emery is out with a minor injury.

RFCLA’s starting lineup for March 24 against the Utah Warriors

1. Alex Maughan (Prop)

2. Bruce Kaukia-Peterson (Hooker)

3. Conor Young (Prop)

4. Jurie Van Vuuren (Lock)

5. Reagan O’Gorman (Lock)

6. Semi Kunatani (Flanker)

7. Matt Heaton (Flanker)

8. Jason Damm (No.8)

9. Niall Saunders (Scrum Half)

10. Dan Hollinshead (Fly Half)

11. Jack Shaw (Wing)

12. James Stokes (Inside Center)

13. Will Leonard (Outside Center)

14. Andrew Coe (Wing)

15. Austin White (Full-back)


16. Ben Strang (Hooker)

17. Lincoln Sii (Prop)

18. Dane Zander (Prop)

19. Max Katjijeko (Flanker)

20. Michael Amiras (Lock)

21. Tas Smith (Scrum half)

22. Seth Purdey (Center)

23. Sam Walsh (Full back)

RFCLA’s match on Sunday, March 24, will be streamed LIVE starting at 3:00 pm (local) on Bally Sports West and The Rugby Network.

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