VANCOUVER – A new competition in high performance men’s rugby is coming to British Columbia, with the inaugural season of the Coastal Cup set to launch Sept. 25.
The league features a combination of historical regional teams, pioneering new sides and three university outfits – all with the intent on developing players and growing the game locally and nationally.
The Coastal Cup will showcase three regionally-based sides, in the Vancouver Island Crimson Tide, the Vancouver Wave and Van East Rugby, along with the Pacific Pride Development Academy and university teams from UBC, University of Victoria and Trinity Western University. The series will see all seven sides play a round robin format, with the table-topping team taking home the Coastal Cup.
The fall campaign will mark a pilot season for the Coastal Cup, which brings a new competition to the West Coast that is aimed to bridge the gap between the club level and professional and national levels, while offering an opportunity for twice-weekly high-level training sessions with the regional teams. With the Pacific Pride and the three university sides involved, the league sets up well for focused development of high-performance athletes.
The Coastal Cup is also excited to announce Canadian rugby legend Eddie Evans will lead the competition as the commissioner. As a player, Evans earned 50 caps with Canada 15s side and played in three World Cups, while also playing 11 seasons of professional rugby, including 10 in Japan. Since retiring, he’s worked with a number of Canadian-based companies and also founded and owns X-treme Sports Gear.
“The Coastal Cup will provide B.C.-based players a competitive, well-organized, structured competition that will bring together hard working and like-minded rugby focused players,” Evans said. “The bottom line is we want to get our B.C. players playing more rugby, especially at the higher levels. It is important for the development of rugby in our province as well as our country. Historically and traditionally, B.C. has been the hotbed of Canadian rugby and we need to get back to that dominance.
“Retention and keeping players in the game has also become a challenge and we need to address and reverse the trend .We are confident that this league will draw and keep players in the game as well as provide an arena for our top players to excel. We can sit back and watch the game dwindle or we can try new things to help improve and engage players, fans and supporters.”
For TWU, UBC and the UVIC, the competition will also serve as a qualification tournament for the Canadian University Championship, with the top two university teams earning a spot in the national championship in the fall.
The Coastal Cup will kick off Sept. 25 with three matches, including UBC hosting TWU, the Crimson Tide playing at UVIC and the Pacific Pride welcoming Van East Rugby. The Vancouver Wave will enter the fray the following weekend (Oct. 2) against UBC at the Gerald McGavin UBC Rugby Centre.
Head Coach: Christiaan Esterhuizen
The Vancouver Wave will take to the field this fall under the guidance of Meraloma Rugby Club coach Christiaan Esterhuizen, who hails from Bloemfontein, South Africa. Esterhuizen will lead the Vancouver regional side that has a storied history of more than 100 years, which includes putting together representative teams that played against the New Zealand All Blacks, Japan and New South Wales. This year’s team will be captained by Neil Courtney, who is a prop for the Capilano Rugby Club and a former member of the UBC Thunderbirds.
Vancouver Island Crimson Tide
Head Coach: Nanyak Dala
The historic Crimson Tide, which dates back to 1895 as a representative team from Vancouver Island, gives the Coastal Cup a long-standing tradition of local rugby. Former Canadian rugby-playing star Nanyak Dala brings a wealth of experience to the sidelines, as the Crimson Tide head coach earned 37 caps for Canada and played in two World Cups, while also competing on the World Rugby Sevens Series and the Commonwealth Games. Dala will be joined by Sean White, who also has an extensive resume with Canada, having played in a World Cup, a Commonwealth Games and on the sevens series. As has been tradition, the Crimson Tide will showcase the best players on Vancouver Island and provide another pathway towards professional and national level rugby.
Van East Rugby
Head Coach: Aaron O’Flaherty
Van East Rugby represents East Van and the Suburbs and will begin competing as a regional side within the Coastal Cup. The team will be coached by Aaron O’Flaherty, who returns to B.C. after most recently coaching in his home country of Ireland with both the Connacht Rugby’s Underage Development squads and the Galwegians Senior Women in the All Ireland League. Previously, O’Flaherty was an assistant coach with Burnaby Lake Rugby Club’s men’s premier side. The team will be led on the pitch by Mike O’Toole, who is the captain at Burnaby Lake and was the captain of the BC Bears men’s side in their last campaign.
Head Coach: Phil Mack
Coached by Canadian rugby legend Phil Mack, the Pacific Pride Academy will provide an exciting element to the Coastal Cup, with a developmental side that features a bevy of up-and-coming Canadian stars. Mack takes on the role after an extensive playing career that included 59 caps and two World Cup appearances with the 15s team and 52 caps and two World Cups with the sevens team. Professionally, he was a player-coach with the Seattle Seawolves, helping the MLR side win the league championship in both 2019 and 2020. Since Rugby Canada relaunched the Pacific Pride program, players like Josh Thiel, Brock Webster, Siaki Vikilani and Michael Smith, among others, have all gone on to international or professional success.
Trinity Western University Spartans
Head Coach: Andrew Evans
Now in its third year as a program, TWU is a rising entity in university rugby. With Andrew Evans leading the Spartans, TWU is an up-and-coming program that operates as a varsity team within the Spartans athletic department. With a professional-like training environment, TWU, who will play within the Coastal Cup in the fall and against university competition in the United States in the spring, has vast potential to quickly develop into a collegiate power. In the Spartans first season back in the varsity fold after a 15-year hiatus at TWU, the Langley-based side earned wins over Western Washington University and University of Washington, as well as nabbing a fourth-place finish at the Western Canadian 7s University Championship in 2020.
Head Coach: Curry Hitchborn
Home Field: Gerald McGavin Centre
Led by Curry Hitchborn, the historic UBC Thunderbirds rugby program will look to roll its run of success within local competitions into the Coastal Cup. Hitchborn, who has long been a driver of developing rugby in B.C., brings a long resume to the table, including eight years at UBC, more than 10 years with various teams with BC Rugby and as the Rugby Development Director with the Seattle Seawolves from 2017 to 2018. Since its beginnings in 1906, UBC has been synonymous with rugby success – most recently within the BC Premier League, which included three straight league titles from 2015 to 2017.
Head Coach: Scott Manning
Home Field: Wallace Field
With Scott Manning taking over the coaching reins from long-time Vikes bench boss Doug Tait, the Vikes enter the Coastal Cup embarking on a new era of UVIC rugby. Manning comes to lead UVIC after coaching the Castaway Wanderers men’s Premier team for the last five years. Backed by a long history in the B.C Premier League, the Vikes will be led on the pitch by captain Logan Martin-Feek, who returned to the Vikes this fall after being selected fourth overall by the Toronto Arrows (MLR) in the 2021 MLR Draft.