When Sean Whyte and Manny Rugamba met a group of rugby Canada sevens players strolling into the Lions locker room, brewing friendships quickly began when they participated in a game similar to football.
Recently, five Canada sevens team members stopped by the BC Lions’ practice facility for a quick tour before their highly anticipated Vancouver rugby sevens tournament starting on March 3rd, where both the men’s and women’s teams aim to put up positive results against other rugby nations.
Jake Thiel, Anton Ngongo and Kal Sager from the men’s team and Keyara Wardley, and Fancy Bermudez from the women’s team helped brought back the nostalgia for the veteran kicker Whyte, who played rugby for years before debuting for the Lions in 2009.
“I always keep a rugby ball in my kicking bag. But since I’ve actually played rugby, I think it was 2004, that was my last season ever of playing rugby,” Whyte recalled.
Whyte was a flyhalf in high school and went on to play for the local rugby club, the Bayside Sharks of the British Columbia Rugby Union (BCRU).
“I played men’s rugby for Bayside and they put me at fullback. I’ve always looked up to the pros in rugby, especially the kicking part of the game was something I always wanted to be good at because not everyone does that on the rugby field. Plus, rugby players to me are the ultimate athlete. They can run all day, make tackles, play offence, defence and kick the ball. They do it all,” Whyte said.
The 37-year-old kicker has spent over a decade in the CFL, splitting the uprights and sealing the game with numerous crucial game-deciding field goals. While he may be away from the rugby pitch at the moment, he’s made lifelong friends from rugby.
“It’s the ultimate team game. It’s exciting. I truly miss it because I love that game a lot,” Whyte added.
The rugby players also taught Rugamba how the sevens game is being played.
For the young defensive back who’s foreign to rugby, Rugamba still allowed his competitiveness to take over even though he was having a blast learning a new sport.
As a football player, Rugamba’s instinct is always about moving forward. But he learned how to pass the rugby ball, he got to experience the scrum and lineout which are completely new to him.
“I saw that both rugby players and football players kind of have the same competitive mentality. Even though we were just playing around out there, you really wanted to win. So it was nice to get to know the world-class athletes in Canadian rugby,” Rugamba said.
“The scrum. I didn’t know what a scrum was. When they broke it down, the scrum was even more confusing. That’s probably the most unique thing out of anything all day. There are so many different things terminology-wise, like a prop, hooker, back, scrum,” he added.
As confusing as it was to learn a new sport in a few hours, Rugamba is excited to see the game of sevens rugby in real action this weekend.
Ahead of the major showdown at BC Place, the two Lions enjoyed sharing laughs and partaking in various games and bonding activities with a few members of the men’s and women’s of team Canada rugby sevens program.
“I remember when I played rugby, I was in the best shape of my life. To go out there with the pros, it’s always fun. I’ve always watched them a lot and just getting to know them as people, that’s the biggest thing for me. It makes me a bigger fan because they are just normal people and they’re all to playing a game that they love and they are blessed and very lucky to play the game that they love for a living,” Whyte added.
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(BC Lions’ kicker Sean Whyte & defensive back Manny Rugamba during the video shoot with Canada 7s’ rugby team on Feb. 8, 2023. Photo by Steven Chang.)