Zac Sanderson still has trouble believing he’ll represent Canada on the rugby pitch.
The Red Deer teen has no doubt put in the effort and hard work to earn the opportunity– he just didn’t think his chance would come so soon.
Sanderson, 17, was named to the Rugby Canada U18 15s final roster for games in San Diego, Cali., from Boxing Day to Jan. 4. A veteran of the provincial Wolf Pack for two years, Sanderson was a bit surprised he got the call for Canada.
“I kind of expected to make Alberta because I’ve been trying out almost every year and your time comes. Making Canada, I still have another year. I wasn’t really expecting it this year, there are other talented kids that are older,” he said.
“I was really surprised I made it… it’s going to be crazy, just going to represent all of Central Alberta, that’s really cool because a lot of the kids that make it to those camps, the majority of them are from Edmonton and Calgary. It’s pretty rare we have a Central Alberta kid go that far. I think that’s really cool.”
His chance to impress the Canadian coaching staff came earlier this fall, near the end of September at a tryout camp in Saskatoon.
Sanderson, a scrum-half thought he had a pretty good tryout and even scored a try in one of the intrasquad games. Although injured in one training session, he noticed when he entered one of the games, his side started to shift the play.
“The whole game changed. Just the flow of the ball and getting the ball out quickly. I also scored which was really good,” he said.
“At my position, I felt I was one of the better guys. There were a lot of athletically talented guys, that were physically a lot more built than I was. I work hard and know my leadership role.”
At the tryouts, he was also joined by Red Deer Titans teammates Ben Tindall, Adam Fort and Ethan DeRidder-Potts. Only Sanderson made the shortlist for the California trip.
He found out late last month that he’ll play for Canada, but is still awaiting more details. Either way, he plans to use the opportunity in San Diego to showcase his skills and bring back some top-level experience to his local rugby club.
“Just the new level of competition and being able to get better playing against people that are at that next level,” said Sanderson, who also hopes to one day play university rugby.
“Then being able to bring that back to my club and playing high school is going to be completely different for me. Completely new understanding. Hope to bring that understanding to my team and then we have an overall better team in Central Alberta.”