Archive for the Rugby Category

An “Old Boys” Tradition

Posted in Rugby, Uncategorized on May 6, 2010 by uniqueathletics

Rugby is a sport steeped in tradition. These traditions have been passed down from generations of rugby players. Rugby traditions are what make such a brutal sport beautiful and meaningful to players all over the world. Each club has their own distinct traditions, and UIC Men’s Rugby is no different. 

Past UIC players scrumming down


Once a year, UIC Rugby players, past and present, meet to play out a lasting tradition. On the first Saturday of June, hordes of UIC rugby alumni fly in from all over the world to partake in this momentous event. This tradition has been dubbed the “Old Boys Game” and is now mere weeks away. Last year’s Old Boys game had a record 62 Alumni present, and even more are expected to make the pilgrimage back to UIC for the event. 


To clarify, a UIC “Old Boy” is a graduate of UIC, and has participated in UIC Rugby at some point during its 20-plus year existence. The Old Boys game is setup as any other game. Two 40 minute halves of rugby are to be played, UIC actives verses alumni. Considering the ever-growing number of Old Boys, hockey-esk lines are used in order to allow all willing participants their shot at game-day glory. Even if for only a few minutes, stepping back onto the field causes memories of their college years to surge back in a rush of nostalgic emotions. 

In order to better understand this significance of this game, I wanted to talk with some of founding fathers of UIC Rugby. I asked Dan Matuz, a UIC Rugby alumnus, what he thought the Old Boy game was, and he said, “For the Alumni it is a time to do everything you did in college and relive the traditions of your college rugby team.  For the actives, it is a time to show the alumni what you have on the field and show them that UIC Rugby is alive and well.” 

Alumni stretching before 2009's Old Boys game


Similarly to the customary songs and social functions of rugby, the Old Boys game has become a UIC rugby mainstay and is deeply entrenched in the tradition of the club. Dan Wiseheart, another UIC Rugby alum, mentioned that the success of the entire weekend is crucial to the alumni. They feel a strong ownership of UIC Rugby’s history, and feel an obligation for that history to continue. 

After speaking with Matuz and Wiseheart, the theme of this event seemed clear. As much as winning and losing is a part of the game, so is the brotherhood and family that is created through the experiences shared by its participants. As with any family, staying connected with one another and rejoicing in their company is fundamental to their existence. Matuz eloquently elaborated on this theme of family by saying, “This is a game that has the words sportsmanship, brotherhood, and social community woven into its tradition.  The game teaches life lessons of teamwork and how important it is to be there for someone.  The tradition is not important to the sport, the tradition is the sport.” 

Actives and alumni after the 2009 Old Boys game


With the culmination of my college career only days away, I wonder what the future holds for UIC Men’s Rugby. What traditions will I have left behind, and how will those traditions live on? UIC rugby is a community and a family. The Old Boys game gives an opportunity for this family to reunite. The bonds of brotherhood remain strong throughout the years, and the Old Boys game is an opportunity to celebrate and cherish these bonds. 

The UIC Old Boys game will be held on Saturday, June 5th, on UIC campus. 

Written by: Joseph Johns 


UIC’s Men’s Rugby unable to stop the Riot

Posted in Rugby on April 19, 2010 by uniqueathletics

UIC kicks off to the Riot with the backline poised to defend.

As Chicagoans slowly emerge from their winter hideouts, and the spring sun begins to thaw the hardened Midwestern terra firma, spring rugby gets officially underway. With the clouds taking a well-deserved day off, and the temperature rising into the 70’s, it was a truly beautiful day for rugby. Many rugby teams have been practicing outdoors for some time, so the breaking weather comes with a resounding sigh of relief from Chicago ruggers. The UIC’s Men’s Rugby Club has been fighting the bitter cold, holding practice outside since the beginning of February. All seemed happy to shed some of the layers for their game on a beautiful Saturday against the Chicago Riot.

The Chicago Riot is a locally based Division 3 men’s team with close ties to UIC as it was founded by a group of UIC rugby alumni in 2006. With the addition of a large number of new recruits, and returning active players, the Chicago Riot has had a strong spring season thus far. The Riot ended their fall season with a record of 2-2, and was looking for another win against UIC.

UIC fight to win the ball at a breakdown.

The game kicked off at 1pm Saturday at UIC. The teams took the field, greeted by an open sky and the well known Chicago wind screaming across the pitch—this would inevitably play a factor in the game. The Riot won the coin toss and opted to receive the ball. The first ten minutes of the game was all Riot driven. Their forwards kept the ball, moving it fairly effectively off the fringe of break-downs. UIC’s pack was on the smaller side, and was fighting to stop Riot’s forwards from gaining ground on crash-balls. UIC got low and made effective tackles, but the Riot was able to crash through,  scoring about 15 minutes into the first half.

UIC was next to drive down field and managed to score 3 points on a penalty kick put through by #8, Vadym Meshkurov. UIC’s momentum didn’t last long. The Riot reacted by scoring two quick tries on the wings , taking over with a score of 17-3. The remainder of the half saw a driven UIC response. Freshman fullback, Shane Dillon, was able to put the ball over twice to make the score a close 17-13 to the Riot at the end of the half.

UIC received the ball at the start of the second half. Unnecessary mistakes and penalties cost UIC turnovers at crucial points. These mistakes let the Riot breakout of control the remainder of the match— scoring multiple unanswered tries against UIC. The extremely physical game took its toll on UIC as UIC continued to be scored on. UIC managed to refocus, mounting an aggressive attack towards the end of the game. This unfortunately came too late allowing the Riot to steal the game with a final score UIC 13, Riot 53.

UIC circle up, post match, to discuss the results of the game.



The Chicago Riot will travel to DeKalb, Illinois on Saturday, April 17th, to participate in Northern Illinois University’s, Tournament of Champions. UIC’s Men’s Rugby will compete in the Division 3 playoffs Saturday, April 17that Dan Ryan Woods—located at  83rd and Western Ave.

For more information about the Chicago Riot Rugby Club, please visit

For more information about the University of Illinois at Chicago Men’s Rugby Club, please visit

Written by: Joseph Johns

UIC Rugby’s Fearless Leader

Posted in Rugby on February 27, 2010 by uniqueathletics

UIC vs. Iowa

Like most American boys, Zack Saban spent his Sundays tossing the pig-skin around the yard, and idolizing his larger-than-life NFL heroes. He spent his summers on the dusty baseball diamond, swinging for the fence, or out on the green fielding fly balls. Across the globe in New Zealand, boys idolize stars of a different sport. In New Zealand, Rugby is the king of sports and has a country full of diehard Rugby enthusiasts to prove it. As a boy, Saban would never have guessed that the hours spent romanticizing American sports would lead him to Rugby. Saban is currently a junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is the Captain and President of the UIC Men’s Rugby Club. I was given the opportunity to talk with Saban about how he found his way to Rugby and his experiences with the sport thus far.

Considering Rugby’s relative obscurity in America, how exactly did you come to play it for UIC?

My freshman year I was in the gym, and a friend of a friend mentioned to me that he was on his way to the first rugby practice of the year. This peaked my interest because I was not currently involved in any sports in college and being a three-sport athlete in high school, I was looking for some way to stay active. So I immediately left the gym and from the first practice I knew that this was by far my favorite sport I have ever been a part of.

Speaking with regards to the obscurity of rugby in America, I think I am very fortunate to have had a chance to find the sport, especially in such a serendipitous manner.

UIC vs. UofC

In your younger years, were sports a large part of your life, and if so, how did they translate into Rugby?

Like I had mentioned previously, I was very involved in sports in high school, almost to the point where I was going to make sports my life in college. I was looking at playing football at a small D-3 school, or trying to walk on to a wrestling team at a Big Ten school. Obviously those options did not pan out for me, but it speaks volumes about my love for athletics.

I have always been an above average athlete, but never a star. I have always had a chip on my shoulder about being the best, so those feelings I developed in my youth have really impacted my rugby career today. Overall, I wouldn’t say my athletic career prior to college translated to rugby, other than the general athletic development sports afford you. Despite the fact that I did not play NCAA sports in college, I still really wanted to continue playing competitive sports in college. So rugby really gave me the chance to continue working towards something, which is what motivates me in most of what I do.

What aspect of Rugby do you find to be the most appealing when you first started? Years later, does that still hold true today?

From the moment I started playing rugby I had some sense of what the sport was all about, but I really had no idea about how cerebral the sport was. Even to this day I get the sense that I know nothing about the sport. If I [could] say one thing about rugby is that it is the most mentally and physically taxing team sport anyone can play. That is what I love about the sport [most of all]. I love walking on to the field and knowing that the team across from me has a weakness and it is my job to find it and exploit it.

The sport is so massive and strategic [that it is] impossible to be perfect, which I absolutely love. Perhaps it is because I am the captain, perhaps it is because of the

UIC vs. Depaul

position I play, but I believe the most important part of rugby is managing every player on the field. Which is very intriguing to me. More than any other sport, every team has a personality. There are so many different ways to be successful in rugby. The game is a constant learning experience, and I really appreciate that about rugby.

I’m sure being the Captain and President of UIC Men’s Rugby comes with many rewards and challenges, could you say a little about that?

Being the President and Captain of the team has been one of the biggest challenges in my life, and I am only beginning to see how much can be done to forward the team on and off the field. The biggest challenge off the field, being the President of the club, is trying to get word out to prospective players. As mentioned before, the sport is relatively unknown in our culture, and it is my job to get new players out and expose them to the game. Off the field, I have to be an advocate for the sport of rugby. It is my job to facilitate the expansion of the sport in this country, a tall task to say the least.

On the field [it’s my responsibility] to make sure everyone knows exactly what to do and when to do it. I also have to manage the game. I am responsible for talking to the referee and calling plays. While I am in no way completely proficient at managing a game, I think I am constantly learning and getting better at my job.

There are many responsibilities, but there are undoubtedly rewards as well. There is no better feeling than walking on the field with 14 other guys, knowing they are looking at you to lead them. I don’t mean to sound like I am the savior of the sport of rugby, but it is hard not to feel good about knowing you have the game in your hands. The feeling of control of the team is the most rewarding aspect of being a leader.

UIC after playing UofI

I know Rugby is normally a fall sport, but what are the team’s plans for the spring? Are there any events that UIC Men’s Rugby participates in?

Well the name of the game in the spring is development. There are a lot of opportunities to play competitive rugby all year, and these are all chances to [better]prepare the team for the fall. There are a few different styles and forms of rugby that are popular in the United States, [and they are all valuable tools to grow and develop] for the fall season.

Tournaments and spring matches are at the heart of what makes rugby a great sport, and they are a great way to get kids interested and hooked. As a team we plan on playing in a number of tournaments and independent matches in order to prepare for the fall regular season. The spring is wide open for a team to participate as much or as little as they want to, our plan is to get as much playing experience as possible and to get as many guys involved as possible, in preparation for the fall.

Internationally, Rugby is extremely popular in certain countries. Have you ever traveled outside of the United States for Rugby? If so, how was that?

UIC Rugby tour of Ireland

With my teammates I recently traveled to Ireland for a week long rugby tour of the country. We traveled to three different cities in Ireland and played three different clubs. In addition we were fortunate enough to be able to get some time with experienced coaches from various clubs in Ireland. Above and beyond this was the single most rewarding experience I have had the pleasure of being a part of. I can’t begin to explain how much I learned about rugby, and how much fun I had in the process. I am very much looking forward to doing something similar in the future.

What advice would you have for someone who was interested in getting involved in playing Rugby for the first time?

[I would say] that the sport is not for everyone. Realistically the sport is very physically demanding and it can be overwhelming for someone who doesn’t have the heart for it. I have seen countless kids come and go, all because of how physical the sport really is. Not everyone will love it as much as I do, but everyone should give it a chance. You will never play a sport that asks so much of you physically and mentally, but you never find a sport that can give as much back as rugby can.

Zack Saban and the UIC Men’s Rugby team’s next contest will be on March 13th at the Whiskey 10’s tournament hosted by the South Side Irish Rugby Club.

Interview conducted by Joe Johns