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Playing championship rugby a long way from home: Get to know BYU's Alex Vorster

A long way from where he was born and raised, Brigham Young University hooker Alex Vorster has overcome multiple life-changing events to get to where he's at now: playing a critical role in BYU's championship rugby team.

"There are a lot of differences living here," said Vorster of his transition from Durban, South Africa where he was born and raised to Provo, Utah. "It's not as humid and hot in Provo as it is in Durban. It's family-oriented here and the importance of religion is intense. I've been able to do well thanks to how accomadating people are here."

Vorster, a 20-year-old sophomore studying economics, is no stranger to change and credits the lessons he's learned from his parents as well as the friendly culture of the BYU community to helping him get to where he is today in life. He also acknowledges the support his sponsor family in Utah has given him by treating him as their own. 

While growing up in South Africa more than 10,000 miles away, Vorster experienced different life-changing events. Vorster's father remarried when Vorster was about five years of age in which he gained two half-brothers from his father's new marriage. When Vorster was 18-years-old, his mother passed away.

"Although my parents weren't together, they taught me to be humble," Vorster said of the teachings of his parents. "Whenever they saw me becoming a little boastful, my parents have always helped me know I stand. They always reminded me."

Learning to adjust to different situations and environments didn't stop when Vorster moved to BYU. Vorster, who is not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, faced more learning curves from understanding BYU's unique culture to taking religion courses.

BYU Cougars to Battle the UCLA Bruins in LA

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Provo, UT – The undefeated BYU Cougars (11-0) will travel to LA to play a scrappy UCLA team on Saturday, April 11, at 1 p.m. PT. The UCLA Bruins outlasted the Air Force Forces 32-12 last weekend to move on to the quarterfinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup. BYU looks to win its fourth straight and fifth overall national championship.

“We’re anxious to get back on the pitch and continuing working towards our goal of winning the 2015 Varsity Cup,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU’s bye of the first round of playoffs.

BYU’s pace has been relentless on both ends of the ball during the 2015 season. The Cougars have outscored opponents 769-142 after 11 games averaging about 70 points a game. Any one of the Cougars are capable of scoring due to solid communication and passing by junior scrum half Luke Mocke and junior fly half Jonathan Linehan.

Solid tackling by their forwards has led to a stingy defense as the Cougars recording three shutouts against UNLV, UVU and Utah State. Freshman hooker Alex Vorster has had a solid season thus far making his tackles and helping the Cougars win scrums.

“Every practice, every win has been focused on winning the Varsity Cup,” said BYU captain and All-American Kyle Sumsion. “Consistency has been key in our success.”

BYU Plays Utah For Wasatch Cup This Saturday

Salt Lake City, UT—BYU (8–0) is coming to the Wasatch Cup ready to play the University of Utah (8–3) for the second time this season. The game is Saturday, March 21 at 1 p.m. MST on the Ute Soccer Field.

Most recently BYU defeated Saint Mary’s College 35–26. The game was a close one; the Cougars were behind most of the first half until a try by senior center Seki Kofe followed by a conversion by junior fly half Jonny Linehan in the 28th minute. Linehan had an especially impressive match, despite being injured, and scored 20 out of the 35 total points.

“Every season is good, but this one has been especially impressive,” said BYU assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti. “Our boys have really come together and know what they are doing. They play as a team.”

The Cougars have already played the Utes once this season in the Southern Utah Showcase and beat the team 50–22. While Utah traditionally has an aggressive offense, BYU has a strong defense and a depth at different positions.

BYU Cougars Defeat SMC Gaels at South Field

BYU center Joshua Whippy and teammates perform the haka on March 14, 2015 before kick off against St. Mary's at BYU's South Field. Photo by Andrea Wride
BYU center Joshua Whippy and teammates perform the haka on March 14, 2015 before kick off against St. Mary's at BYU's South Field. Photo by Andrea Wride

Provo, UT—BYU defeated Saint Mary’s College for the second time this season with a final score of 35–26, proving that the Cougars are number one in the nation.

More than 3,000 fans were on the edge of their seats tonight at BYU’s South Field as the no. 1 Cougars took on the no. 4 Gaels. BYU is part of the Varsity Cup and has a bye to this year’s quarterfinals.

“Saint Mary’s came out with a tough defense, but we worked our way around it and built momentum for a strong victory,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth.

Following a demonstration of the haka by BYU as a sign of respect to the game of rugby, the team had a rocky start. Saint Mary’s was in the lead until BYU’s first try by senior center Seki Kofe, followed by junior fly half Jonny Linehan’s conversion, bringing the score to 16–7 in the 28th minute. Junior center Joshua Whippy scored a try in the 36th minute, bringing BYU’s score up to 14. The Cougars were still behind at halftime 16–14.

BYU takes on tough competition this weekend

Moraga, CA—BYU is on the road again and ready to play one of its toughest competitors: St. Mary’s College in California. The game is at 12 p.m. PST this Saturday, February 28.

After an unexpected game cancellation against the Air Force Academy last weekend, BYU is anxious to get back on the field, and St. Mary’s is a fitting opponent. It is the only team that disrupted BYU’s win streak last year (L 30–24).

“Not only are we ready to get back in action and play, but we’re coming into this game with a lot of energy and preparation,” said Kyle Sumsion, BYU team captain. “Last year we weren’t as focused. We don’t want to make that mistake again.”

While the Cougars went on to defeat the Gaels in their second matchup of the 2014 season, the first game was still a disappointment. To make sure this coming game isn’t a repeat of history, the Cougars have put in extra hours at practice this past week.

This season St. Mary’s has experienced some turnover in players and as a result has had some ups and downs. The team is coming to the match against BYU with the latest win against San Diego State (W 78–5). St. Mary’s Tommy Wallace and Kingsley McGowan are leading the team, both offensively and defensively.

In 2014, St. Mary’s was named the Men’s College Team of the Year by American Rugby. Most recently Coach Tim O’Brien was awarded Coach of the Year on January 24, 2015 by USA Rugby.

“It’s no lie that St. Mary’s is a good school and has a great rugby team,” said BYU rugby assistant coach Wayne Tarawhiti. “But BYU has had no losses this season. This will probably be one of the most exciting games up to this point in the season.”

This weekend’s game will be broadcast live on SMC Gael Vision at www.smcgaels.com. For a direct link, visit http://rugby.byu.edu/schedule/2015-schedule.

BYU Rugby defeats Utah in St. George 50-22

BYU sophomore wing Tua Leai runs with the ball in hand against Utah. (Photo credit Andrea Wride)
BYU sophomore wing Tua Leai runs with the ball in hand against Utah. (Photo credit Andrea Wride)

St. George, UT- BYU rugby’s convincing win over ASU two weeks ago in St. George foreshadowed today’s 50-22 win over Utah.

Junior scrum half Luke Mocke opened the game scoring his first of two tries in the first six minutes setting the tone early for the Cougars.

“Today’s win showed the depth we have at different positions,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of the six different players who scored tries. “Our forwards did a great job holding their ground creating more chances for us to make plays.”

Utah played a physical game keeping their forwards in tight leading to four tries and one conversion. Aggressive play by the Utes resulted in extended periods of possession but the Cougars still outscored them.

Fans in attendance saw the return of All-American junior fly half Jonathan Linehan who scored ten points off of conversions. Freshman Calvin Whiting added two tries. Sophomore Tua Laei, junior Steve Davies and seniors Ryan Blaser and Kyle Sumsion added a try each to the Cougar’s victory.

Whiting’s try off a Laei pass in the 71st minute wide right put the game out of reach for the Utes giving the Cougars their second victory.

BYU Rugby: A look back at the 2014 season and the state of program

BYU fullback Josh Whippy scored two tries to help his side beat the California Golden Bears in front of 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday for the Varsity Cup National Championship. United World Sports Photo.
BYU fullback Josh Whippy scored two tries to help his side beat the California Golden Bears in front of 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday for the Varsity Cup National Championship. United World Sports Photo.

Provo, UT—With the dust still settling from the Cougars resounding 43-33 victory over the California Golden Bears BYU head coach David Smyth, his staff and captain Kyle Sumsion took time to review the 2014 season which culminated in BYU winning the Varsity Cup National Championship for the second year in a row over the University of California—Berkeley.

By running in seven tries against the vaunted California rugby program and in front of over 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium the Cougars put an exclamation point on a season that had high expectations from the outset according BYU’s head coach David Smyth.

“The season was a huge success,” said Smyth, “Our main priority was obviously to defend our championship and we did that. I couldn’t be more proud of the work our players put into this season in order to help us win the Varsity Cup again. We have a lot of respect for the California rugby program and are fortunate to have come out champions in this meeting between our two teams.”

BYU Rugby: A look back at the 2014 season and the state of program

BYU fullback Josh Whippy scored two tries to help his side beat the California Golden Bears in front of 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday for the Varsity Cup National Championship. United World Sports Photo.
BYU fullback Josh Whippy scored two tries to help his side beat the California Golden Bears in front of 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium this past Saturday for the Varsity Cup National Championship. United World Sports Photo.

Provo, UT—With the dust still settling from the Cougars resounding 43-33 victory over the California Golden Bears BYU head coach David Smyth, his staff and captain Kyle Sumsion took time to review the 2014 season which culminated in BYU winning the Varsity Cup National Championship for the second year in a row over the University of California—Berkeley.

By running in seven tries against the vaunted California rugby program and in front of over 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium the Cougars put an exclamation point on a season that had high expectations from the outset according BYU’s head coach David Smyth.

“The season was a huge success,” said Smyth, “Our main priority was obviously to defend our championship and we did that. I couldn’t be more proud of the work our players put into this season in order to help us win the Varsity Cup again. We have a lot of respect for the California rugby program and are fortunate to have come out champions in this meeting between our two teams.”

BYU Rugby: Cougars go for third straight title, set to face California in 2014 Varsity Cup Final

BYU Captain Kyle Sumsion answers questions from the media following last year's Varsity Cup Final victory over California. The Cougars and Golden Bears will meet for this year's championship Saturday in a rematch of last year's game.
BYU Captain Kyle Sumsion answers questions from the media following last year's Varsity Cup Final victory over California. The Cougars and Golden Bears will meet for this year's championship Saturday in a rematch of last year's game.

Provo, Utah—The 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship, which is played Saturday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, will feature a rematch between defending champion BYU and runner-up Cal. The Cougars are looking to capture their fourth national championship in their ninth straight attempt.

“Both of these teams have had very good seasons and it seems fitting that we’ll be meeting again in the Varsity Cup Final,” BYU head coach David Smyth said. “Our boys have prepared all season for Saturday’s game and will spend this week fine-tuning our play in practice in anticipation of an incredibly talented and well-coached California team.”

BYU and California last met in the inaugural Varsity Cup National Championship last year on South Field in Provo.  BYU won late on Jonny Linehan’s drop goal in injury time to edge the Golden Bears 27-24. With this Saturday’s match up, BYU and California will have met in eight of the last nine national championships, with the lone exception being in 2012 when BYU beat Arkansas State for its second title.

“We’re very familiar with California seeing as how we’ve played them at the end of every season in recent memory,” Smyth said. “We know how good they are and always look forward to the challenge they present to us. It’s really college rugby at its finest.”

BYU Rugby: BYU opens the 2014 Varsity Cup National Championships with a quarterfinal victory over Dartmouth

BYU flyhalf and vice captain Jonny Linehan led all BYU scorers with 25 points as the Cougars beat Dartmouth in Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional. Photo courtesy of Paul Meyers.
BYU flyhalf and vice captain Jonny Linehan led all BYU scorers with 25 points as the Cougars beat Dartmouth in Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional. Photo courtesy of Paul Meyers.

Annapolis, MD—The BYU Cougars traveled to the East Coast and the campus of the Naval Academy to begin their 2014 Varsity Cup National Championship post-season campaign and came away with a 70-15 victory over the Big Green of Dartmouth in the opening game of the Varsity Cup Eastern Super Regional.

After a slow first half start, that saw BYU leading 15-3, the Cougars would run away in the second half scoring 55 points to 14 for the Big Green.

“We didn’t get off on the right foot,” BYU captain Kyle Sumsion said, “I don’t know if it was the travel or what but we just were making too many mistakes in the first half. Dartmouth was defending well, but we just kept stepping on our own toes.”

In the opening half of the game BYU, on more than one occasion, found itself deep in the Dartmouth territory only to commit a penalty or turn the ball over.

It wasn’t until a well constructed backline move saw fullback Josh Whippey find some space in the Dartmouth defense out wide and run 20 meters for the opening try of the game in the 13th minute.

More back and forth play saw BYU eventually muster a 30th minute penalty by flyhalf Jonny Linehan to edge the Cougars to an 8-0 lead.

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