Staples boys’ rugby team welcomes South Africans to Westport


Photo contributed by Sam Pirkl ’23.

St. Andrew’s South African rugby team poses with the Staples boys’ rugby team at the Gonzaga Rugby Classic Tournament.

The bus rolled into the Staples High School parking lot on April 15. The boys’ rugby team anxiously stood, waiting for its arrival. The doors opened, and the first of the visiting team came out, carrying their gear and bags. The St. Andrew’s College rugby players, all the way from South Africa, stepped off the bus ready to battle Staples High School. 

The St. Andrew’s College rugby team came to Westport as a part of their tour around the country, where they played multiple high school rugby teams. Staples Captain Sam Pirkl ’23 explained the South Africans’ choice to come to Westport. 

“They were originally coming here on a tour of the East Coast and we had a player on the team whose mom went to the school there [in South Africa] and that is how we made that connection,” Pirkl said. 

Aside from the opportunity to compete against the nationally ranked Staples boys’ rugby team, a few South African players were assigned to different Staples boys’ houses, for their stay of two nights and three days.  

Nic Hall, a St. Andrew’s College player, described his experience in Westport.

“It was the most amazing experience,” Hall said. “Meeting all the Staples rugby players was definitely a highlight, and I would definitely hope to meet up with them again in the future.” 

Kellen Archibald ’24 had a great time with the kids he got to host.

“It was an amazing experience being able to house them and get to be friends with people from another place,” Archibald said. “They were all very respectful and super nice and I also got exposure to South African culture.” 

Pirkl also had the opportunity to host some of the South Africans and admired the culture change.

“They were really great guys,” Pirkl said. “They were very polite. It was really cool to see how similar we were, but they just spoke a different language, with different accents. It was really cool to have that experience of seeing another culture.” 

Before Staples faced a loss to the South Africans, Staples organized a joint practice between the two teams. Andy Cerrito ’24 found this practice to be very beneficial. 

“Practicing with the South Africans was a lot of fun,” Cerrito said. “It was a great time to meet some of the guys prior to the game. The South Africans led the practice so we got to learn some new drills and skills that can help set us apart from other teams in the States in the future.” 

Archibald mentioned how St. Andrew’s players are more skilled than their usual competition as they handed the Wreckers a loss in a one-sided affair.

“Their coaching staff had tons of knowledge about the game and our team got to pick up some pointers here and there,” Archibald said.  “They did everything we do but just 10 times better and to perfection. Alongside this, they were physically much bigger than us and much more skilled. If they played American rugby, no doubt they would be number one.” 

After the exciting match, Pirkl explained how playing with them helped him become a better player. 

“It was really cool because after the game, I got the chance to talk to my opposing number and he told me where I could improve,” Pirkl said. “I gave him some tips as well, but he told me what I can do better to improve not only as a player but also as a leader.” 

Both St. Andrew’s and Staples enjoyed kindling new friendships throughout their stay in Westport. The Staples boys enjoyed bringing them to restaurants they were not used to going to in South Africa. 

They did everything we do but just 10 times better and to perfection. Alongside this, they were physically much bigger than us and much more skilled. If they played American rugby, no doubt they would be number one.

— Kellen Archibald '24


“We went to a bunch of different fast food restaurants like Five Guys and Shake Shack, and all these places were like heaven to them,” Archibald said. 

Hall explained that Westport and South Africa are very different.  

“Culturally I think that the people we were with were different,” Hall said.  “The accents were different, the houses were different, and just the whole vibe around Staples was quite different than what we were used to.” 

To have the South Africans get a true Staples experience, the rugby team decided to bring them to the exciting 13-11  boys’ lacrosse win over Darien on April 15. There, the South Africans were able to socialize with new people and also learn the game of lacrosse. 

“I introduced them to a few of my non-rugby friends, and they got along very well. They had a great time,” Pirkl said. “They actually brought the energy to that game, which may have been pretty helpful to Staples win.”

Hall praised his time in Westport after meeting many new people at the game and out with the rugby team.

“Integrating with Westport society was for sure a highlight. The boys and girls were both so nice to us and very welcoming. They made us feel a part of their little community,” Hall said.

The Staples boys concluded their time with the South Africans by bringing them to Compo Beach.

“The final thing we did the morning they left was a polar plunge at Compo Beach,” Cerrito said.  “It was a great last moment to sweat it out with the boy’s before we had to go our separate ways.” 

Although the South Africans were only here for three days, the boys developed a great relationship, finding it hard to say goodbye before their final departure. 

“I am definitely staying in contact with them. I got a few of their social media and a few of their numbers. Hopefully, our connection lasts pretty long,” Pirkl said. 

The South African boys felt the same way about sustaining the relationships they built, labeling the town of Westport as a place they do not want to forget about.

“If I ever did come back to America, Westport would be the first place I would visit,” Hall said. “I loved it so much that I am actually thinking about coming back this year for a few months on exchange.” 

The Staples boys’ rugby team would be more than glad to welcome these boys again. 

“Overall I would say my experience was amazing, to say the least. I made some awesome friends from another country and got to have a great social and rugby experience,” Archibald said. “I also felt like our team learned a lot from them and their coaches and showed the standard for international rugby. Everyone would love to have them in Westport again.”