Rugby

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 heads to play Dartmouth for second round of Penn Mutual Varsity Cup

Following its 113-8 win over Arizona State University in the first round of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup playoffs, the no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team (20-0) will head east to play Dartmouth for the second round on Saturday, April 16, 2016.

"We know Dartmouth is working hard in preparation for this weekend's game," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth. "They'll be ready to play. We have to stay focused against Dartmouth and stick to our game plan."

Dartmouth, who defeated Penn State 30-25 in the first round, is known for its rich rugby history that can be traced back to the late 1800's. A dominant force in Ivy League rugby play, Dartmouth has produced several standouts and tours internationally.

"They're experienced as a program and have had the chance to see different styles of play," said BYU rugby team captain Luke Mocke. "I know that sticking to the game plan our coaches have created will be the difference maker in the game. We've seen it work this entire season."

The defending Varsity Cup national champions, BYU completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season and has not lost a match since February 2014. Like Mocke pointed out, the team's game plan has paid off with convincing wins over strong teams like St. Mary's and Central Washington. The Cougars are a tough team to defend due their multiple scoring options.

"Our team does a great job of passing well and communicating which has allowed different players of different positions to score," said junior lock Matt Jensen who has found the tryline many times during the 2016 regular season. "It doesn't matter if they're a back or a forward, all of my teammates have the ability to put points on the scoreboard."

About the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup:

The Varsity Cup is America’s top collegiate postseason championship.

BYU improves to 18-0 for the 2016 with 71-0 win over SDSU at South Field on March 29, 2016

Provo, UT- The no. 1 Brigham Young University rugby team (18-0) shut out the San Diego State Aztecs at BYU’s South Field despite colder weather conditions on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

“It was great to be back at home and finish with a win over San Diego State,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of BYU’s return to South Field following two away games. “We were able to see what our boys could do in different situations and how they reacted as a team.  Hats off to San Diego State for making the trip.”

One of the position switches by BYU that happened in the game was switching sophomore Calvin Whiting to fly half and Ricky Tuihalagingie to center. Whiting has played at center much of the season and Tuihalagingie has started at prop.

The evening's rotation paid off as BYU found the scoreboard quickly thanks to tries from winger Joshua Anderson who capitalized on assists from fullback Joshua Whippy. Anderson put ten points on the board before ten minutes had passed in the match.

Then, at the 11th minute, Anderson completed a hat trick thanks to an assist from Tua Laei. Whiting’s conversion was good giving the Cougars a 17-0 lead over the Aztecs. BYU’s Luke Mocke found the tryline after running the ball in after receiving it from Kevin Schofield. Whiting’s conversion was good increasing BYU’s lead to 24-0.

Fourteen minutes later, BYU flanker Ara Elkington added five points to BYU’s tally for the night giving the Cougars a 29-0 lead. Subbing in for Jackson Kaka, Nic Purcell bulldozed his way in for BYU’s sixth try of the night at the end of the first half. Whiting sent the ball through the uprights for another two points putting the Cougars up by 36 points at half-time.

Undefeated BYU Cougars host the Army Knights of West Point on Thursday, March 17

Provo, UT- Brigham Young Unversity rugby's 1st XV host the Army Knights of West Point on Thursday, March 17, 2016, with kick off set for 7:00 p.m. MST. The no. 1 Cougars recently defeated St. Mary's 62-15 at BYU's South Field while the Knights are coming off a 56-5 win over Dartmouth on March 5, 2016.

"Army will be hungry for their next win after beating Dartmouth," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of visiting Knights. "They're a fit, physical team and will hustle tall 80 minutes. I like what I've been seeing from our boys so far this season. We'll need to play our game and stay focused both halves."

The Army Knights are currently 6-3 with their three losses handed to them by Iona, Kutztown and Air Force. All three losses were by an average margin of 12 points. On the other hand, the BYU Cougars are undefeated so far during the 2016 season winning by an average margin of 50 points since their home opener against Air Force late February in 1st XV play. 

"We've been able to play well this season thanks to coaches Smyth and Tarawhiti," said BYU rugby team captain and scrumhalf Luke Mocke. "Our conditioning and drills have made the difference in each of our matches. It's shown by our scoring ability and defense."

In each of BYU's wins this season, different Cougars have found the tryline such as no. 8 Joe Pikula and lock Matt Jensen. One such Cougar is sophomore winger Kevin Schofield has completed a hat trick in each of the last three matches.

"Schofield brings a great deal of hustle every game as shown by his ability to put points on the board," Smyth said of winger's several tries this season. "His play along with the leadership of our experienced players have helped us get to where are at this point in the season."

The No. 1 BYU Cougars to play no. 3 St. Mary's on Saturday, March 12

Provo, UT- In a battle of two of the top collegiate rugby teams in the nation, the no. 1 Brigham Young University Cougars will take on the no. 3 St. Mary's Gaels at South Field in Provo this Saturday, March 12, at 1 p.m. MT for the second time in 2016. In the last match between the Cougars and Gaels on Feb. 20 at St. Mary's, the Cougars hung on for a 30-29 win despite the relentlessness and conditioning of the Gaels.

"St. Mary's always brings it every match so we need to be prepared," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth of skill level and conditioning of Gaels. "We will need to be better in our set pieces and execution. We'll also need to keep our foot on the gas the entire 80 minutes and stay focused on finishing with the win. We can't afford to play the same way we did last week against Central Washington."

Last week against the Central Washington Wildcats, the BYU Cougars had a rough start to both halves of the game which included three tries in a row scores by the Wildcats in the second half. In BYU's last match against the Gaels, the Cougars led 27-8 in the second half. It wasn't until the last five minutes of the match where the Gaels pieced together back-to-back tries and conversions putting the Gaels within one point.

"We'll be defending our home pitch this time," said BYU rugby team captain and scrumhalf Luke Mocke of St. Mary's coming to South Field. "Our passing and ball control will be key against St. Mary's. They have the ability to score as well as play defense. As long as our forward pack and back line work as one, we'll finish with a win."

BYU Cougars finish 58-27 over CWU Wildcats at South Field on March 5

Provo, UT- The Central Washington Wildcats proved to be a resilient, physical opponent as the Brigham Young University Cougars battled for a challenging 58-27 win at BYU's South Field on Saturday, March 5, 2016.

"We expected a tough game from Central Washington which we handled well," said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth. "We did well in our set pieces and continuity game in the first half. We finished the first half better than we have in the last two games."

The Cougars had to overcome a rough start as the Wildcats made to penalty kicks in a row within the first five minutes of play putting the Wildcats up by six points. It wasn't till the 8th minute of the match that the Cougars got on the score board thanks to a try from BYU sophomore winger Kevin Schofield. BYU sophomore center Calvin Whiting's conversion was no good allowing the Wildcats to keep their 6-5 lead.

BYU scored its second try of the match as junior fullback Ryan Blaser scored a try off a Jared Whippy assist. Whiting's conversion was good giving the Cougars a 12-6 lead in the 11th minute. Eight minutes later, Whiting capitalized on a CWU penalty adding another three points to the score board for BYU increasing BYU's lead to 15-6. Despite being awarded another penalty kick in the twenty 23rd minute, Whiting missed. Two minutes later, CWU missed its penalty kick due to a Cougar infringement. 

After a consistent attacking phase by the Cougars, BYU's Jonny Layne fought his way to a try after being lifted off his feet by a CWU defender in the 27th minute. Whiting's conversion changed the score to 22-6 in BYU's favor. Five minutes later, BYU's Ricky T. scored BYU's fourth try of the game. A completed conversion by Whiting increased BYU's lead to 29-6.

2016 Schedule Announced

As the calendar turns to a new year, the Cougars set their sights on a 5th straight national title in preparation for the 2016 season.

 

This year’s BYU rugby squad has a lot to look forward to as they return a plethora of talent from last year’s national championship squad, who defeated California 30-27 in the 2015 Varsity Cup title game at Rio Tinto Stadium.

 

Below is the released 2016 schedule for the Cougars. They will head down I-15 back-to-back weekends to begin their title defense when they take on Utah in St. George on January 16th and then compete in the annual Red Rock Invitational Tournament in Mesquite, NV over the January 23rd weekend.

 

After trips to play Colorado in Grand Junction and a return to St. George to take on Dixie State, BYU will then hit the road to take on northern California rugby power St. Mary’s in Moraga, CA on February 20th.

 

Their first home contest will take place against the Falcons of the Air Force Academy on February 27th, which will then be followed by Central Washington on March 5th, a rematch with the Gaels from St. Mary’s on March 12th, and then another home contest on St. Patrick’s Day against Army.

 

After a March 19th trip to Ogden against Weber State, BYU will return home under the lights for contests against the Aztecs of San Diego State on March 29th, and then close the season with the annual Wasatch Cup game against rival Utah on April 1st.

 

Stay tuned for more specific details of each match on https://rugby.byu.edu/schedule, as times and addresses will be posted closer to gameday.

 

1/16/2016      Utah (St. George, UT)

1/23/2016      Red Rock Invitational Tournament (Mesquite, NV)

2/6/2016        @Colorado (Grand Junction, CO)

2/13/2016      @Dixie State (St. George, UT)

2/20/2016      @St. Mary’s (Moraga, CA)

Loving what you do and doing what you love: Getting to know Seki Kofe

BYU senior center Seki Kofe runs the ball against UVU on March 25, 2015. BYU won 109-0 at BYU's South Field. Photo by Andrea Wride
BYU senior center Seki Kofe runs the ball against UVU on March 25, 2015. BYU won 109-0 at BYU's South Field. Photo by Andrea Wride

At 6’ 1’’ and 235 lbs., senior center Seki Kofe fits the part of a tough rugby player, but when he greets you with his wide grin it is easy to tell there is more to him than meets the eye.

“I still get nervous for the games,” Kofe laughs in his easygoing way. “It’s intense without pads.”

Kofe has been a key fixture of BYU’s rugby team since his freshman year. The celebrated athlete has won numerous awards and has been instrumental in the team’s back-to-back national championship victories. However, although Kofe has had great success at BYU, it was not always his plan to attend the university.

“My family has always played rugby,” Kofe said. “Originally I was going to play at Arizona State University because I knew the coach, but after my mission to Spain I decided I wanted to go to BYU.”

Although Kofe’s time at BYU has helped him excel academically, spiritually and physically, it has required dedication. His day typically begins before the sun rises and includes physical training, class (he is close to completing his degree in construction management), work and rugby practice. He is home long after the sun has set and works on homework until midnight. Kofe also balances being a husband and his calling as young men’s president in his ward.

Loving what you do and doing what you love: Getting to know Seki Kofe

BYU senior center Seki Kofe runs the ball against UVU on March 25, 2015. BYU won 109-0 at BYU's South Field. Photo by Andrea Wride

At 6’ 1’’ and 235 lbs., senior center Seki Kofe fits the part of a tough rugby player, but when he greets you with his wide grin it is easy to tell there is more to him than meets the eye.

“I still get nervous for the games,” Kofe laughs in his easygoing way. “It’s intense without pads.”

Kofe has been a key fixture of BYU’s rugby team since his freshman year. The celebrated athlete has won numerous awards and has been instrumental in the team’s back-to-back national championship victories. However, although Kofe has had great success at BYU, it was not always his plan to attend the university.

“My family has always played rugby,” Kofe said. “Originally I was going to play at Arizona State University because I knew the coach, but after my mission to Spain I decided I wanted to go to BYU.”

Although Kofe’s time at BYU has helped him excel academically, spiritually and physically, it has required dedication. His day typically begins before the sun rises and includes physical training, class (he is close to completing his degree in construction management), work and rugby practice. He is home long after the sun has set and works on homework until midnight. Kofe also balances being a husband and his calling as young men’s president in his ward.

“You decide whether you’re committed or not,” Kofe said. “You may not always want to do something, but if you love what you do you get it done.”

BYU Advances to Penn Mutual Varsity Cup Semifinals After Defeating UCLA

BYU senior Kody Thompson runs the ball against UCLA. BYU won 45-16 to advance to the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup playoffs. Photo by Andrea Wride
BYU senior Kody Thompson runs the ball against UCLA. BYU won 45-16 to advance to the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup playoffs. Photo by Andrea Wride

Los Angeles, CA – Frustrated UCLA Bruins could not stop the relentless, well-conditioned BYU Cougars (12-0) at UCLA’s North Athletic Field on Saturday, April 11, in the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup quarterfinals. With tall, green trees and red-accented brick buildings as the backdrop, the Cougars beat the Bruins 45-16.

“Led by our front row: Zane Mendenhall, Alex Vorster, and Kody Thompson, these boys built a good platform for us to work off, defensively we were able to get on our tackles early and as a result we created scoring opportunities,” said BYU rugby head coach David Smyth. “Fair play to UCLA, they were aggressive and did a good job at disrupting our momentum. Our performance was uneven at times and we had to work hard for what we got.”

BYU senior Kody Thompson runs the ball against UCLA. BYU won 45-16 to advance to the semifinals of the Penn Mutual Varsity Cup playoffs. Photo by Andrea Wride

UCLA was able to make two penalty kicks and try but couldn’t manage much more offensively. BYU’s senior wing Jordan Lowry scored two tries in the win as five other Cougars got on the scorecard. Junior fly half Jonathan Linehan made five out of seven conversion attempts in the match.

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