Written by Joe Harvey Photos by Dasia Smith
The Dallas Jackals will travel to Atlanta this weekend to take on Rugby ATL. It is a game that marks the beginning of the final leg of the Texas club’s season, their run-in to end this campaign seeing them meet the New York Ironworkers, NOLA Gold, and Chicago Hounds.
There is something of a contrast between the two squads, as Rugby ATL aims for playoff rugby in the Eastern Conference, and Dallas is out of postseason contention. However, after a winless inaugural campaign a year ago, a win for the Jackals and a higher points total is a sign of improved fortunes for the team.
The new head coach, Agustin Cavalieri, has clearly impacted the group, which saw significant changes from the group that took to the field the previous season.
Last time out, the club again competed in a 26-36 loss at the hands of Western Conference rivals, the Utah Warriors. However, the team recently announced the long-term retention of Sam Golla, the Major League Rugby number one overall pick in last year’s Draft, all the way through to the 2026 season.
Another player to have had an impact is Dewald Kotze. The South Africa-born Canadian hooker is in his first full season with the side and enjoying his time as Dallas has made strides over the course of 2023.
“It just felt a lot more organized this year, with the management and coaching-wise,” Kotze said. “It felt more professional, and we were super lucky to have Mario Ledesma to help, especially for me as a front-row and my own development.
“You can definitely tell we are a young team, basically brand new with a new squad. I think throughout the season, we can see when we look off the field and on the field, we have made massive improvements.
“It is frustrating not always getting results throughout the season, but we are all trying to believe in the process and be positive. We know we are a good team, and we can win. It is just about keeping on putting in the work.”
In their seventh game of the season, the Jackals got their first-ever win. It came against the Toronto Arrows at their Choctaw Stadium home that 14-11 victory, a landmark day for the side as their journey into professional rugby continued.
The @DallasJackals get their first win in franchise history! An unbelievable effort to stop a Toronto maul at the end!
Full match highlights here: @therugbynetwork