Gamecock Rugby Head Coach John Roberts leads the team in the huddle before its first practice after players won their second-straight conference title. (Photo by Noah Hale)

On the Bluff Road intramural field, just steps away from Williams-Brice Stadium, Gamecock Rugby is back at practice.

It was just days after the team won its second-consecutive Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference championship.

Practice that Wednesday focused on the team’s last challenge of the season: the Premier Cup in the Collegiate Rugby Championship.

“We just got to come out juiced up,” said team captain Grant Howard. “If we come out ready to kill and ready to fight, we’ll do very well.”

The club is coached by Head Coach John Roberts, a 1990 University of South Carolina School of Journalism graduate, who took the reins of the club last season after Mark Morris stepped down.

Roberts started Furman University’s club rugby program in 1998. He led the Paladins to three Division III club rugby championships and compiled a 188-64-1 record with the program, according to the Gamecock Rugby website

Gamecock Rugby under Roberts has qualified for the Collegiate Rugby Championship in back-to-back years, after previously being left out of the tournament since 2019.

The club will be punching up in its weight class, facing notable rugby programs such as Army or Navy, which are housed under the service academies’ athletics departments.

But Roberts is sure his team will be competitive.

“We’ve learned to play with one another, … to develop chemistry,” he said. “We need to just continue on that path of building that chemistry to be competitive.”

The club has been making moves off the pitch, too.

It has raised more than $200,000 in scholarships for a sport that has no athletic department support.

This past season’s freshman class of 22 players is one of the biggest in the program’s 56-year history.

“I got to see the (team) when I was a senior in high school and hang out with them,” said freshman wing Nick DuBois. “I really felt like I belonged here.”

The club is looking to continue that recruiting momentum by holding its inaugural camp on campus in July.

High school sophomores and juniors will tour the campus and train with the team and staff.

Campers will “see what life is like as a Gamecock,” the team’s website says.

Roberts said launching a camp is a big step.

“Hopefully, we can build a nice big camp up and bring a lot of students in – teach them some good rugby skills and some life skills … and just spread the gospel about USC,” Roberts said.

Gamecock Rugby will be back in action April 29-30 for the Collegiate Rugby Championship in Washington, D.C.

The team poses for a photo after winning the 2023 conference championship. The Gamecocks rallied with two minutes left to clinch the title. (Photo courtesy of Jesse Copeland)