American Raptors Ready for Season Opener Against Dogos XV

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A man catches a rugby ball in the snow.

There are some similarities between the 2023 and 2024 Super Rugby Americas season openers for the American Raptors.

In 2023, the Raptors – then brand new to the competition – opened their season on the road against the previous year’s runners-up. On Friday, the Raptors will start their second season in SRA on the road against the 2023 runners-up. In 2023, it was against Selknam in Santiago, Chile. In 2024, it will be against Dogos XV in Córdoba, Argentina. Both teams fell to Peñarol in the final the year prior, and both will have opened their season against the newcomers from the United States in the coming year.

The Raptors hope that the similarities end there and don’t carry into the final result on Friday afternoon. Selknam provided the Raptors with a warm welcome to SRA with a 45-10 loss in Round 1 of 2023. On Friday, the Raptors are hoping to start the season off on the right foot with a victory over Dogos XV on the road. 

That will be a tough task. Dogos outscored the Raptors 77-56 during the team’s two meetings en route to a 9-3 record and a narrow six-point 23-17 loss to Peñarol in the final.

But these aren’t the same Raptors. Of the 26 players who made the trip down to Argentina for the first three rounds of the competition, 13 players are set to make their debut with the club. 

The Raptors also enter the season on a one-match winning streak. They avoided finishing with the wooden spoon in hand with a 38-34 win over Cobras Brasil – their second win of the year – in Round 14 on the road in São Paulo, Brazil. That victory bumped the Raptors up to sixth in the table with 16 points and knocked Cobras down to seventh with 13 points.

Another thing working in the Raptors’ favor is the fact that they are returning several of their statistical leaders from the 2023 season. Diego Fortuny and Diego Magno both finished with the first and third most tackles on the team in 2023 with 90 and 83, respectively, with Will Crawford finishing sixth with 64. The top three try scorers are also returning in 2024. Daytwon Sheridan – who did not travel to South America for the first three matches – and Watson Filikitonga both finished last season with four tries apiece, with Fortuny not far behind with three tries. 

Fortnuy and Feofaaki Pulu also finished with the second, and fourth most carries on the team in 2023. Fortuny finished the season with 79 carries to Pulu’s 60. Magno, Fortuny, and Filikitonga also rounded out the fifth, sixth, and seventh spots for most minutes played in 2023 with 868, 777, and 739. 

Unlike 2023, the Raptors have experience on their side and some skins on the wall to show for it. When you combine the experience of the returning players with the injection of some exciting new talent like 2023 Super Rugby Americas Tighthead Prop of the Year Facundo Ignacio Pomponio, and highly accomplished Argentinian fly-half Ignacio Mieres, the 2024 season looks bright for the Raptors. 

The Raptors will take on Dogos XV on Friday, February 16 at 3 PM MST. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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