Explosive chemistry lands Best, Douglas on national rugby sevens team

Sports history is chock-full of teammates whose incredible chemistry elevated them to a higher level – think Montana and Rice, Gretzky and Kurri, Stockton and Malone.

Jorden Best (left) and Justin Douglas have cracked the 12-man roster for Canada’s under-18 sevens rugby squad. They travel to the Isle of Man in September for the Youth Commonwealth Games.

Jorden Best (left) and Justin Douglas have cracked the 12-man roster for Canada’s under-18 sevens rugby squad. They travel to the Isle of Man in September for the Youth Commonwealth Games.

Sports history is chock-full of teammates whose incredible chemistry elevated them to a higher level – think Montana and Rice, Gretzky and Kurri, Stockton and Malone.

On the Canadian youth rugby scene, Justin Douglas and Jorden Best are the closest equivalent.

The two Abbotsford teens have been playing the sport together for years – with their school team at Robert Bateman Secondary, on age-class squads with the Abbotsford Rugby Football Club, and on regional, provincial and national rep sides.

The bond they’ve formed over the years works in two ways. To begin with, Douglas, 17, and Best, 16, have an uncanny feel for where the other is going to be on the pitch.

And as tends to happen with buddies, the friendly competition between them also serves to push them to make the most of their talent.

“In a way, it’s kind of a competition,” Best analyzed. “We really feed off each other, and we’re really trying to get better.”

Douglas and Best are set to renew their partnership with the Canadian under-18 rugby sevens side. The two cracked the national team’s 12-man roster following a national tryout in Victoria a couple weeks back, and they’re heading overseas for the Youth Commonwealth Games, Sept. 7-13 on the Isle of Man.

Both Douglas and Best have represented Canada in 15’s rugby at the under-17 level, but they both prefer the breakneck pace of the sevens game.

“It’s a more fast-paced game, and it’s really open,” Douglas explained. “There’s more room for creativity.”

Rugby sevens will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, and even though they’re still in high school, the Abbotsford duo find themselves well-positioned for future Olympic participation.

“They’re lucky to be coming in at the right time, where sevens has progressed to the forefront with the Olympics,” said Shane Thompson, head coach of the national U18 sevens team. “Fast-forward five years from now when the Olympics is, they’ll be 21 or 22 years old, and they’ll definitely be on the cusp of making that team.

“Lots can change between then and now . . . but all these kids going on this (U18) team would be in the running for 2016 and 2020.”

At the Youth Commonwealth Games, Canada is in a pool with Australia, Scotland and the host Isle of Man. The other half of the draw features England, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Sri Lanka.

“We want to go out and have a good showing for Canada,” Best said. “We want to show the world we’re going to be good in 2016.”