The form surge of powerhouse winger John Ryberg (above) has arrived at the right time for the LA Giltinis’ full-on physical battle against the Houston SaberCats on Saturday.
The 3pm home game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be fully-charged between two of the standard-setting clubs of Major League Rugby in 2022.
For the 6-3 Giltinis, it is a chance to extend their four-game winning streak and repair wounded pride after a tame 21-11 loss to the SaberCats in Round One. The Giltinis had three players yellow carded and conceded 63 per cent of possession in that grating loss.
The 5-4 SaberCats are confident they can again impose their physicality on the Giltinis and produce an upset.
Giltinis head coach Stephen Hoiles has named a settled side with just two changes to the starting line-up which shut out Rugby New York 43-0 last Sunday.
“We’ve rewarded players for the excellent performance against New York but also emphasised all week that the physicality has to go up a notch against the SaberCats,” Hoiles said.
“All losses hurt but how you lose often dictates if a sour taste lingers and that loss to the SaberCats is one of those because we were physically inferior and well-beaten in Houston that day.
“Having John produce his best game of the season against New York was a real plus because being physical across the field is needed to get the result on Saturday.”
The Houston-born Ryberg always likes to find a little more against Texan opponents.
The muscular 235lb (107kg) finisher scored his first two tries of 2022 against Rugby New York but it was his workrate that was more impressive.
He contributed 10 runs for a team-leading 107m gained and threw his frame into 13 tackles. Those impacts were made all over the field not just sitting on his wing.
Ryberg will have a different wing partner on Saturday. USA Eagle Ryan James returns with his footwork and speed now Adam Channel has been drafted to the USA Sevens team for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Vancouver this weekend.
Up front, the only change is Andrew Tuala (below) coming in at prop. Djustice Sears-Duru will be used off the bench against the SaberCats.
The Giltinis have rediscovered their attacking mojo over their run of four wins.
The 2021 MLR champions have scored 22 tries in that period by picking up both the precision and the sustained pressure of their attacks.
Former USA Sevens star Danny Barrett is in the backrow for the SaberCats, who are coming off their biggest win of the season after a 31-6 result against the depleted Dallas Jackals.
LA GILTINIS (v Houston SaberCats)
1 Andrew Tuala, 2 Joe Taufete’e, 3 Charlie Abel, 4 Luke White, 5 Dave Dennis (capt), 6 Nathan Den Hoedt, 7 Christian Poidevin, 8 Hanco Germishuys, 9 Harrison Goddard, 10 Orene Ai’i, 11 Ryan James, 12 Billy Meakes, 13 Ben LeSage, 14 John Ryberg, 15 Jordan Trainor
Replacements: 16 Lindsey Stevens, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Marco Fepulea’i, 19 Corey Thomas, 20 Cyrille Cama, 21 Tas Smith, 22 Luke Burton, 23 Tom Mitchell
IN: Ryan James, Lindsey Stevens
OUT: Adam Channel, Les Leuluaialii-Makin
The Giltinis face the Houston SaberCats at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum at 3pm (PST) on Saturday. The match will be broadcast live on Bally Sports SoCal and Bally Sports West in Los Angeles. The match can also be viewed live on The Rugby Network internationally.