While Oxford University are warming-up for their Varsity Match campaign with a three-match tour of the USA, new Cambridge University skipper Charlie Amesbury has taken a 25-strong squad on a training trip to South Africa.
Amesbury, the former Bristol and England Sevens professional, played in the 23-18 win by the Light Blues at Twickenham last December that ended Oxford’s six year unbeaten run. He has been joined at Cambridge by another former Bristol player, flanker Nick Koster.
The 28-year-old Koster, who has enrolled to study for a masters in Social Innovation joined his new team mates on the trip back to his native South Africa and immediately found himself undergoing the tortuous Bishop Steps climb.
During a three day stay in Cape Town, where Koster was once a pupil at the famous rugby academy of Bishops College, the squad were put through the pain barrier of running up the 301 steps on the 80 metre long stairway from Kloof and Victoria Road, in between the first and second Clifton beaches.
Amesbury and his squad have since headed to the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, where this week they will be joined by head coach James Shanahan to get down to the real business of planning a strategy to back-up last year’s stunning triumph.
Shanahan has got a more than half-a-dozen Blues coming back for another crack at Oxford and, as well as Koster, he has some other interesting recruits to work with. Jake Hennessey is a Scotland Under 19 cap who captained the Harlequins side to victory in the Premiership Under 18 tournament last season and is in that club’s academy, while another new centre bidding for a Blue will be Scotland Under 20 cap Archie Russell.
The younger brother of Scotland and British & Irish Lions outside half Finn Russell, he has played for Stirling County and recently completed a mechanical engineering and international studies degree at Strathclyde University.
Another newcomer with Scottish Under 20 honours is back row forward Buchan Richardson, who has headed to Grange Road from Durham University having previously played for England Students.
The Light Blues kick-off their season with a home game against Loughborough University at Grange Road on Wednesday, 20 September. A week later they entertain Durham University.
Cambridge University South African Training Squad
Backs Back 3: Charlie Amesbury *, Henry King *, Ed Loftus Centres: Rory Triniman *, Mike Phillips *, Jake Hennessey, Archie Russell Outside Half: Andrew Craib Scrum Halves: Chris Bell, Owen Perks, James Elms
Forwards Props: Jonny Dixon *, Will Dean, Tom Wilson, Henry Somers Hookers: Andrew Burnett *, Miles Huppatz Locks: Rowan Beckett, Andrew Hunter *, Henry Rose Back Row: Steve Leonard, Nick Koster, Buchan Richardson, Matt Watson, Tyler Hammond