Senior tackles rugby

September 7, 2017 — by Neil Rao

Muscling his way out of a pile of sweaty athletes, senior Ryan (Hakim) Caviani sprinted to the opposing touchline, diving as he grounded the ball in a practice during the start of his team’s season in January.  

Caviani was recognized for his ability while playing for a local Silicon Valley rugby team, later joining the NorCal All-Stars team for high schoolers just after his first season in the sport. As part of the team, he has played in major tournaments such as a recent international competition in Oregon against teams from New Zealand, England and Ireland.

But rugby became a part of Caviani’s life when a friend introduced it to him only a year ago.

“At first when playing, I didn't think much of rugby,” he admitted. “I thought it was fun and all but just played it on the side.”

He was mainly using rugby to improve his football skills in the offseason, but instead, his football background allowed him to excel at this new sport.

His athleticism is easy to see: He is a key player on the school’s football team, playing running back and linebacker on varsity starting as a sophomore. Because rugby is a similarly physical sport to football, Caviani has been able to translate his football experience to the rugby field.

“Caviani is a physical force on the field, and seeing him make these big plays fires up us as well,” senior safety Pranay Bettadapur said. “His rugby helps him with his tackling and aggression.”

Nonetheless, because Caviani’s rugby team combines the best players in the region, practices are extremely intense with lots of conditioning. Coaches grade players and, when players underperform, player are cut them from the team.

He practices two to three times a week at Treasure Island in San Francisco, meaning that Caviani, like many of his teammates, travels for hours just to attend practices — adding to the physical toll on his body. Additionally, because his rugby season begins in January and lasts through summer, at times Caviani had to play both rugby and football on the same day.

His high school rugby league consists of many older players, helping him improve and feel at home, said Caviani.

Caviani is looking to improve and get stronger in the coming months, hoping to get recruited for rugby from big-name colleges such as the University of Oregon, Clemson or Arizona.

“I never really thought I'd be able to say it, but rugby has become my main sport now over football and I'm looking forward to having a future playing it,” Caviani said.

 

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