DB student tackles hard-hitting sport

Sophomore Kurt Sakata starred on another school’s rugby squad last year as Player of the Year.

Sophomore+Kurt+Sakata+found+his+interest+in+the+sport+over+two+years+ago+when+he+first+saw+a+rugby+match+on+TV.
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DB student tackles hard-hitting sport

Sophomore Kurt Sakata found his interest in the sport over two years ago when he first saw a rugby match on TV.

Sophomore Kurt Sakata found his interest in the sport over two years ago when he first saw a rugby match on TV.

Photo courtesy of KURT SAKATA

Sophomore Kurt Sakata found his interest in the sport over two years ago when he first saw a rugby match on TV.

Photo courtesy of KURT SAKATA

Photo courtesy of KURT SAKATA

Sophomore Kurt Sakata found his interest in the sport over two years ago when he first saw a rugby match on TV.

Cindy Liu, Staff writer

Being a Brahma did not stop sophomore Kurt Sakata from being named the Player of the Year for the Servite High School JV rugby team last year.

Sakata was one of the 30 percent of rugby players selected from various high schools allowed to play for another school’s team since rugby is not a CIF sport.

Rugby, a sport often seen as a clash of football and soccer, is a full contact sport in which  players use physical strength, agility and strategy to advance an oval shaped ball into the opposing team’s field by either kicking or running with the ball.

Players perform full on tackles along with other physical actions without any sort of padding or gear.

“There’s no stopping,” Sakata said. “It’s not like football; there’s no downs or time outs. You just keep going. It’s tiring, but in the end when you think about the game, you’re just like ‘wow, that was awesome.’”

Sakata’s interest in the sport was sparked by a rugby match on television two years ago. Since then, Sakata was able to develop as a rugby player, participate in numerous competitive teams, and meet rugby players from around the world while training.

Soon after watching the rugby match on television, Sakata joined the Fullerton Lions Club.

A short while later, Sakata participated in the Fullerton Lions Sevens, a select team of players from the club that plays rugby sevens, an alternate version of rugby. In this version, there are seven players from each team on the field instead of the usual 15 players; they spend a brief 20 minutes on the field compared to the usual 80 minute game.

“It’s more open and more fun [since] it’s a shorter game,” Sakata said.

Soon after, Fullerton Lions coach Anthony Mosqueda invited Sakata to join Servite High School’s rugby team he was developing.

“The camaraderie is unbelievable,” Sakata said. “You could hate the team, hate the players you are playing against and… demolish them [during the game], but after each game, we serve dinner or lunch and everyone just bonds.”

He plays the position of hooker, a forward player responsible for fighting for the ball during scrums, for Servite.

A year ago, Sakata left the Lions and joined Costa Mesa’s Back Bay Rugby team where he plays as an inside center.

“In that position, you generally have to be quick, quick on your hands. It’s a much harder position than a hooker,” Sakata said.

Last summer, Sakata had the opportunity to participate in the International Rugby Academy held in New Zealand with international students. There, he trained with a team of ten international students to improve his rugby techniques and played in various games alongside them.

“Foreign rugby players, compared to [players from] here, are more experienced and more respectful,” Sakata said.

As the only student athlete from the United States attending the rugby academy, he developed close relations with players from all around the world, including students from New Zealand, Japan, Philippines, London, Scotland, Chile and Uruguay.

In one of the events that cemented his passion for rugby, Sakata attended a four day camp at UC Berkeley during the summer of 2015 where he trained with collegiate rugby players alongside roughly 80 students from America and foreign countries.

“It got me tougher physically and mentally,” Sakata said. “I would say I got more mature after I started playing rugby; the traveling, meeting new people, and the coaches [caused that].”

Sakata now trains with his personal coach Tyler Bailey in hopes of qualifying for Division 1 college rugby.