Seattle Seawolves Hosts Houston SaberCats in Playoff Eliminator

The Seattle Seawolves host the Houston SaberCats on Saturday, June 24 at 3 pm PT (6 pm ET) at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington in the Major League Rugby Western Conference playoff eliminator. Click here for tickets! For those who can’t attend, the match will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 and internationally on The Rugby Network.

The Seattle Seawolves defeated the Houston SaberCats 24-11 on March 11 at home and won 34-17 in Houston on May 13.

Match officials for the playoff eliminator match include referee Joe James, assistant referees Luke Rogan, and Austin Reed with Nick Hannon the TMO.

The winner of the Western Conference playoff eliminator will travel to San Diego for the Conference Finals against San Diego Legion on Sunday, July 2.

Seattle Seawolves

Head Coach Allen Clarke has made wholesale changes in the starting XV since last week’s 40-19 loss to the San Diego Legion. Only Ronan Foley is retained in the starters, although he moved from eight-man to openside flanker.

The reason for so many changes is that the Seawolves would finish in second place in the Western Conference regardless of last week’s outcome. This provided an opportunity to rest players ahead of the playoffs. This was accomplished by having numerous players make their MLR debut, and by dipping into the Seattle RFC roster. The team finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, the third-best record in MLR.

Of interest, is Riekert Hattingh is back after an injury sidelined him for several weeks. The team also has their two preferred fullbacks starting with Adriaan Carelse at fullback and Duncan Matthews shifting to right-wing. Devereaux Ferris also played for the Houston SaberCats in 2023.

Lauina Futi is 5th in MLR meters gained with 1404, AJ Alatimu is 4th in points scored with 85, while Jordan Chait, who is not in the matchday 23 is 9th with 72. The Seawolves have two of the leading try scorers with Riekert Hattingh 3rd with 11 and Lauina Futi 5th with 9. AJ Alatimu is 4th in successful goal kicking with 38, JP Smith 4th in kicking meters with 3618, and Charles Elton 2nd in tackles made with 244.

Houston SaberCats

The Houston SaberCats also entered last week’s final regular season match knowing that they would finish in third place regardless of the outcome. The team rested a number of players in their 47-24 loss to the New England Free Jacks. The team finished with a 10-6 record, the fourth-best in MLR.

Head Coach Pote Human has 12 changes in the starters and another in the reserves for the match against the Seawolves. Only Dean Muir, Keni Nasoqeqe, and Gerrie Labuschagne were retained as starters. Joe Taufete’e is the only addition to the reserves.

The SaberCats play a physical brand of rugby that is typical in South Africa. As a result, there is a 6-2 split in the reserves.

Davy Coetzer is 2nd in the MLR for points scored with 124 and 2nd in successful goal kicking with 40.

It was surprising to learn after the SaberCats posted their matchday 23 that Line Latu was added to the playoff eliminator squad without playing for the team during the regular season. He was obtained on loan from the American Raptors due to team injuries, however, it should be noted that it appears that Nick Boyer, Trace Bolstad, and Kian Meadon could have been named and the team could have asked MLR to let Kainoa Lloyd be eligible.

Squads with Player Profile Links

Seattle Seawolves: 1 Mazamo Majola 2 Peter Malcolm 3 Sam Matenga 4 Ben Landry 5 Rhyno Herbst 6 Charles EltonRonan Foley 8 Riekert Hattingh (C) 9 JP Smith 10 AJ Alatimu 11Lauina Futi 12 Dan Kriel 13 Tavite Lopeti 14 Duncan Matthews 15 Adriaan Carelse 16 James Malcolm 17 Jake Turnbull 18 Mason Pedersen 19 Ben Mitchell 20 Nakai Penny 21 Devereaux Ferris 22 Lopeti Aisea 23 Jeremiah Sio

Houston SaberCats: 1 Rob Cobb 2 Dean Muir 3 Morgan Mitchell 4 Marno Redelinghuys 5 Nathan Den Hoedt 6 Malon Al-Jiboori 7 Keni Nasaqeqe 8 Gideon Van Wyk  9 Dillon Smit 10 David Coetzer 11Veriniki Tikoisolomone 12 Louritz Van Der Schyff 13 Dominic Akina 14  Line Latu 15 Gerrie Labuschagne 16 Joe Taufete’e 17 Alec McDonellor 18 Val Lee-Lo 19 Emmanuel Albert 20 Danny Barrett 21 Hanco Germishuys 22 Carlo De Nysschen 23 Jax Hidalgo

2023 Team Squads with Player Article Links (* Did not play)

Seattle Seawolves

Props: Dewald Donald, Mazamo Majola, Freddy Tafuna, Jake Turnbull, James Kuahiwinui Jr.*, Sam Matenga, Mason Pedersen, Taniela Tupou

Hooker: Alex Glover, James Malcolm, Peter Malcolm

Lock: Rhyno Herbst, Taylor Krumrei, Isaia Lotawa, Samu Manoa, Ben Mitchell, Brendon Tupufia

Back Row: Jamie Demers, Andrew Durutalo, Charles Elton, Ronan Foley, Ben Landry (FL/L), Adam Page, Nakai Penny, Riekert Hattingh, Neal Moylett

Scrum-half: Devereaux Ferris (SH/FH), Karl Keane, JP Smith, Reid Watkins

Flyhalf: AJ Alatimu, Shane Barry (FH/FB), Jordan Chait

Centers: Lopeti Aisea, David Busby, Dan Kriel , Tavite Lopeti

Back three: Lauina Futi, Martin iosefo, Conner Mooneyham, Jeremiah Sio, Cole Zarcone, Adriaan Carelse, Duncan Matthews, Mat Turner

Houston SaberCats

Props: Rob Cobb, Frikkie De Beer, Alec McDonell, Fatongia Paea *, Pono Davis, Val Lee-Lo, Morgan Mitchell, Will Vakalahi (P/H)

Hooker: Dean Muir, Joe Taufete’e (H/TH), Andrew Tuala (H/LH, short-term), Alex Zapata

Lock: Nathan Den Hoedt Wynand Grassman (L/FL), CC Mahoni, Marno Redelinghuys

Back Row: Tomiwa Agbongbon, Emmanuel Albert, Danny Barrett, Asa Carter, Hanco Germishuys, Keni Nasaqeqe, Malon Al-Jiboori, Jaco Bezuidenhout *, Gideon Van Wyk

Scrum-half: Nick Boyer (SH/W), Carlo De Nysschen, Dillon Smit

Flyhalf: Trace Bolstad *, David Coetzer, Rob Povey (FH/FB/IC)

Center: Dominic Akina, Kainoa Lloyd, Simi Moala, Louritz Van Der Schyff

Back three: Christian Dyer, Jax Hidalgo, Gerrie Labuschagne, Kitan Ojo * (Returned UK), Zach Pangelinan, Veriniki Tikoisolomone, Kian Meadon (FB/FH), Drew Wild, Line Latu

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