After playing together on the Saskatchewan Rivers Dragons, Jonty Kruger and Elijah McPherson will soon be joining forces on a provincial team.
The pair is about to travel to Winnipeg with the rest of the Saskatchewan Under-18 men’s team to compete at the Western Canadian Rugby Championships, which will begin Thursday and conclude Sunday.
“I’ve been waiting for this all year,” McPherson said. “It’s pretty neat that Jonty’s going to be my teammate for this event, as he’s the one that actually got me into rugby in the first place.”
“We’ve been teammates for awhile now, so to be playing for Saskatchewan and have him coming with me is going to be pretty awesome,” Kruger added.
The pair was to have been joined on the Saskatchewan roster by teammate Byron Farrell, but he withdrew from the tournament earlier this week.
Local player Kiera Beauchesne will also be competing in Winnipeg with Saskatchewan’s Under-18 female team.
For Kruger, the chance to compete at the Westerns makes up for what happened to him last year, as he was set to suit up with Saskatchewan at the national championships in Calgary but was unable to attend after suffering a broken collarbone.
“It’s nice to have the chance to be able to play for the province once again as it was really disappointing to miss out last year due to injury,” Kruger said.
“I’m pretty excited to head over to Winnipeg with the rest of the guys and get things started.”
Kruger and McPherson were able to earn their spots on the provincial roster after playing with the Northern Saskatchewan Wolverines team at the Manitoba/Saskatchewan Regional Championships in Regina last month.
“The Wolverines had players from Prince Albert, Saskatoon and a few other communities,” Kruger said. “We played against the Southern Saskatchewan team down there and then the coaches made some cuts before making the provincial team.”
“We did well with our tackling and rucking, but I think the fact that we showed up to as many practices as we could and competed our very best no matter the situation was something that really worked out in our favour when they made the final roster,” McPherson added.
A total of six provincials squads will be competing in the men’s Under-18 tournament, as British Columbia and Alberta will each be bringing two teams to Winnipeg.
“I had the chance to compete at the Under-16 nationals last year and it really gave me a better understanding of what the other provinces bring to the table,” McPherson said.
“We all have our similarities, but I think British Columbia and Alberta tend to use their speed and their acceleration to their advantage, while Manitoba and Saskatchewan really focus on playing a more physical style of game.”
Although he won’t know how they’ll match up with the other provinces until the tournament begins, Kruger feels confident in Saskatchewan’s chances.
“I think we have a really well balanced group,” Kruger said. “Our forwards are looking pretty good at the moment and our backs are just phenomenal.
“We have a lot of great players who have lots of experience, so I think we should have a really strong week in Winnipeg.”