The Runner Sports

Austin Huns: 2017 DI Club Champions, Major League Rugby Pioneers; Leading Rugby Union’s Rise In Texas And USA

For the first time in their 47-year history, the Austin Huns are USA Rugby Men’s DI Club National Champions after defeating New York Athletic Club 27-23 at Glendale, Colorado’s Infinity Park. They are also embarking on another history-making event by joining an alliance of US-based rugby clubs in forming the Major League Rugby (MLR) competition. Forty-five years as an amateur club; now begin year one professionally as national champions.

No other Texas club has won a national title, men’s or women’s, in the past 32 years. Over three decades of relative obscurity on the sports landscape and in one year Austin will have brought a national rugby title to Texas, hosted for the second year in a row an international Test Match, and now a professional rugby competition. Texas has quickly become one of the major centers for rugby union in the United States but is also growing more relevant internationally thanks in large part to Austin’s influence.

“It was a brilliant final,” coach Eugene Eloff said of the DI title match. “The standard of rugby was on par with other parts of the world.” And he should know; Eloff coached South Africa’s 2003 and 2005 World Champion U19 Springboks as well as Super Rugby’s Lions from 2007-2009. He now leads an international club with eyes on claiming the first MLR crown in 2018.

With sponsorship from Top 14’s Racing 92 as well as an internationally respected head coach with Super Rugby experience, the Huns are making their mark. Earlier this season, the Huns tested themselves against the Richmond Football Club of the Greene King IPA Championship, one level below English Premiership Rugby, arguably the best rugby competition in the world.

Along with Eloff, the Huns have signed a collection of international professional talent: Tongan and club captain Lomani Tongotongo, French fly-half Timothee Guillimin, South Africans fullback Martin Knoetze and Hanco Germishuys, with US-born stars Todd Clever and Peter Malcolm, as well as future star Sani Taylor –who will forever be remembered as the player who scored the game-winning try for the Huns. This collection of talent includes three USA Eagles (Malcolm, Germishuys, and Clever), former PRO Rugby players (Germishuys, Knoetze, and Michael Reid), and several players whose names will be widely known before long.

“Seeing this Huns group grow game by game, training session by training session, in terms of leadership, skills, and fitness, it was an incredible journey,” said Eloff about the season after the championship match.

What’s next for the Huns? Sevens season kicks off as Austin looks to defend their Red River Rugby Championship and maybe, just maybe, bring home yet another title as DI Club Rugby Sevens National Champions.

Saturday, June 17 kicks off the Sevens season for Austin with their own 20th Annual Bloodfest, which includes a Men’s and Women’s Premier bracket as well as Social and up to six Youth brackets.

The USA Rugby Emirates Airline Club 7s National Championship will be played August 12-13 at the National Sports Complex in Minneapolis, Minnesota and broadcast live on The Rugby Channel.