Van Den Berg records 50 caps ahead of New England match
HERRIMAN — Franco Van Den Berg recently recorded his 50th playing cap in Major League Rugby during Utah’s match against the NOLA Gold, further establishing himself as one of the team’s key and most consistent components.
Van Den Berg arrived in Utah during the winter of 2018, seeking the opportunity for his family to grow up in an ideal environment while playing some good rugby.
So far it’s all gone according to plan for the South African native.
“The opportunity to come to the United States was really enticing,” Van Den Berg said. “It was an interesting opportunity to add value here and play some good rugby…and we’ve just had an awesome time in Utah. The family values that we have on the team is really part of everything. So it’s been a great quality of life for my young family here.”
Van Den Berg has two young daughters who are often seen greeting him on the field after most home matches, both of whom have found themselves right at home in Utah, along with his wife Zoe.
Along with the quality of life off the field, Van Den Berg also raves about the quality of the Warriors organization and the team environment he’s been a strong part of for the last four years.
“It’s been absolutely awesome being part of this organization,” Van Den Berg said. “Seeing the team grow and the league grow, and then being a part of it — it’s been awesome.”
First-year Warriors coach Greg Cooper noted Van Den Berg’s contributions early on and has been grateful for all of it.
“He’s a real professional with how he goes about his work,” Cooper said. “He does his core role, and that’s really important. What has really impressed me this year is that he’s a really good team player. He also carries very strong and tackles very strong.”
Next up for the Warriors, who are 3-2 on the season, is a home match against what looks to be a formidable New England Free Jacks team (3-2), who are coming off a hard-fought 10-9 win over the Dallas Jackals.
The Free Jacks definitely have the team’s attention due to their success, not only this year, but last season where they made a deep run in the postseason.
“They’re clinical and they don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Cooper said. “They do the basics very, very well, so it really is going to be a game when we can’t allow them to win those physical battles…We’re going to have to fight for 80 minutes and win the majority of those physical battles.”
A big key for the Warriors will be starting off strong and playing the level of rugby they showed during the second half versus Toronto last week. But for Cooper, he believes setting a focus of starting off strong isn’t necessarily the right mindset for his team.
“We’re focused on how we play the game, and not so much starting well,” Cooper said. “Because if the process is right, and we play the game right, then we start well…So it’s about our process and getting it right, and then I believe we will start well.”
As for the challenge that New England presents, Cooper is expecting a formidable one.
“We probably didn’t strike Toronto when they were at their best, but New England is going to be a new proposition,” Cooper said. “They had a great year last year, and are playing well at the moment, so it’s exciting to be home playing against a side like New England, who we have a lot of respect for.”
UTAH WARRIORS VS. NEW ENGLAND FREE JACKS
DATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 31
TIME: 7:30 PM MST
WHERE: ZIONS BANK STADIUM, HERRIMAN
BROADCAST: KMYU, TRN, ESPN700, KSLSPORTS.COM
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