The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Hennie Van Zyl named men’s rugby head coach

3 min read
The rugby team poses for a team picture in front of the goal posts.

Hennie Van Zyl has 30-plus years of rugby experience. (Susan S | Shutterfly)

By: Rachel Cheyenne Kern

Staff Writer

Just last week, athletic director Patrick Catullo announced Hennie Van Zyl as the new head coach for men’s rugby.

Van Zyl brings 30-plus years of rugby experience to the position and was previously a head coach at Old Dominion University and the University of Virginia. Senior history major and social media officer for the team, Adam Thompson said, “Hennie played at a very good level in South Africa and having coached for 16 years, I’m very excited for the future of this program which I hold so dear.”

Speaking on his experience and what he brings to the team, Van Zyl said, “I am eager to share my knowledge and strategy of this game while instilling strong values and character building among this group of exceptional men.” He also shared his excitement to start working with the team, “What makes me the most excited is the heart of this team.”  

Sophomore biology major, Aidan Gallagher said Van Zyl’s reports his coaching style as “very constructive in his analysis and helps to guide players individually to be better.” This coaching style and Van Zyl’s new approach has already begun to help the team improve for the upcoming season and has inspired them to continue this improvement. Gallagher said, “Hennie has brought invaluable coaching ability, and the atmosphere changed in the team his first training session with us. Everyone is focused and looking to get better.”

Freshman history major Rob Gambrino furthered this sentiment. “As for myself and the boys on the team, we’re really excited to get started and start working to the ultimate goal,” said Gambrino. “Training never stops and the boys know this and we’re always looking for ways to better ourselves and the team as a whole.”

As far as how the spring season is looking, Thompson said, “The spring schedule is in a state of flux at the moment as we adjust to the introduction of a new coach.” He said he will have the schedule posted on all of the team’s social media pages including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Gallagher shared some insight as to what the season will include, “Some very tough sevens tournaments coming up along with some exciting 15s matches against teams we would not usually play.”

Gambrino said, “The spring season is looking very promising, especially with our match-up against our school’s rival, CNU.”

Undeclared freshman Reece Anderson also mentioned that the team will be going to France and Spain for spring break where they will play two games.

Junior political science major and team president Alec Charoenthep discussed how the season will affect the underclassmen who have more time to grow with Van Zyl. He said the season “looks like it’ll have good competition that will help develop some of our younger players and get them a lot of minutes to help their cohesion.”

Thompson emphasized that the team appreciates the undying support from the UMW community. He says, “We’ve had a difficult couple of months – this is a common theme with the club during its 41 year history. I want to say to the campus and wider community thank you for all your support during this period. It meant the world to play in front of you for four years and we want to bring back exciting rugby on a Saturday afternoon to Doc Warner Field, and bringing in a coach of Hennie’s experience and pedigree will only expedite that process.”

When asked what made the UMW Mothers stand out to him, Van Zyl shared a similar sentiment, “Part of UMW’s past successes are due to the incredible support of the alumni, parents and students over many years.” He further credits Athletic Department’s support of the team as an amazing opportunity and said, “to finally have a university that will provide me the resources and tools that I need is nothing short of a winning combination. Look out Nationals – Mother’s Rugby is coming!”

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