Sheffield RUFC play host to Croatia in one-off game to boost development of both camps
Posa finds himself in the unique position of being the head coach of both teams and the man behind this one-off event at Abbeydale Sports Club (3pm kick-off).
Sheffield are making a strong fist of their first season in National Two North, English rugby’s fourth tier.
For Posa, a second generation Croatian who was born in New Zealand, what they lack in talent and experience they more than make up for in heart.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the Croatian players,” says Posa, who travelled the world playing for them before stepping up to the coaching staff in 2014 and then to full-time coach of the XV and Sevens teams after Covid.
“In England, most players are semi-pro or get a little bit of payment, and rightly so.
“My Croatia boys don’t get paid, they give up work, they sacrifice everything to come and play for Croatia. More people are becoming aware of these nations with the success of the likes of Portugal at the World Cup.
“We’ve had three promotions to get to the European Sevens tournament – you could make a movie about this. I’ve got two guys in my team who sell corn on the beach as their job and we’re playing against France, Great Britain and teams like that. Unreal.”
The pride Posa has for his players is infectious, and once he starts talking, there’s no stopping him.
“One of my young boys got a real whack in the ribs in the quarter-finals of a Sevens competition,” he says. “He said he’d be all right for the semi-final – but then we found out he’d ruptured his kidney in two spots, lost his kidney, and he’s on the operating table, the boys think he’s going to die.
“Croatians are really emotional, so we lose the semi-final, and we find out if we lose by less than 20 in the bronze medal match we can still be promoted.
“My guys are all over the show emotionally, we get news 10 minutes before kick-off he’s survived surgery and is wishing us well, we get on the pitch and are losing 12-0 at half-time.
“I’m starting to worry, but we fight back to 12-10 and I said to the guys it’s the best defeat we’ll ever have.”
Posa is equally effusive about Sheffield. Despite his roots, he is steeped in Yorkshire rugby. He moved to Scotland in 2000 thinking he’d only be here for a year but by 2003 was in Yorkshire and a journey began that has taken in Beverley, Doncaster Phoenix, Rotherham Titans, Barnsley, the University of Sheffield, and now Sheffield.
“We’ve got probably two players in our whole squad who have played at this level, the rest are playing higher than they’ve ever played,” he said of the team he led to promotion last season.
“It’s a lot of young kids playing a unique brand of rugby. Sheffield is a great club and I’m enjoying it.”
But who will he be coaching on Saturday - Sheffield or Croatia?
“I’m going to do the impossible and be in both,” he laughs. “I’m with Sheffield all week, they’ve got great leaders, they’ll be good to go.
“Croatian players will fly in on Friday and fly back Sunday morning, they will not complain but they need my attention on the day.
“It’s a brilliant chance to give my Croatian lads a shot at rugby and the Sheffield lads an international opponent. Rugby’s the winner.”