The Rise of Rugby: The Miami Sharks and South Florida’s New Sports Frontier

In the sun-kissed land of South Florida, known for its vibrant beaches, pulsating nightlife, and rich sports culture, a new team is poised to make its mark on the local sports scene. The Miami Sharks, South Florida’s first ever professional rugby team, are gearing up to introduce the region to the exhilarating world of rugby, one scrum at a time.

Rugby, a sport with a rich history dating back to the early 19th century in England, is often described as a mix between football and soccer, but with its own unique flair. For the uninitiated, the game might seem complex, but at its core, it’s a simple game of strategy, skill, and physicality. Fifteen players on each team battle it out on a rectangular field, aiming to score points by carrying, passing, or kicking the ball into the opponent’s goal area. What sets rugby apart is its emphasis on continuous play, with few stoppages and a high level of physical contact. 

A transition to the states is long overdue for some rugby enthusiasts, “I’ve waited a long time for this moment,” says Nelson Cabral, a lifelong rugby fan, “it feels great being having a team in my own backyard now that I can root for.” A sentiment shared by state side Rugby fans who now longer have to resort to overseas streams to enjoy the game they love.

The Miami Sharks, led by Head Coach Jose Pellicena, are on a mission to not only compete at the highest level but also to grow the sport in a region where it’s relatively unknown. With a roster that boasts a mix of seasoned veterans and up-and-coming talent, the Sharks are eager to make their mark in the world of rugby.

Rick Rose, a player with a lifelong love for the sport, sees the Miami Sharks as a platform to showcase his skills at the professional level. Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, where his father played rugby, Rose brings a wealth of experience and passion to the team. “Some of these guys have been playing at the international level, professionally overseas,” Rose remarks. “They just have so much information.”

The Sharks’  opened their inaugural season on Sunday, March 3, in Fort Lauderdale at AutoNation Sports Field, marking the beginning of a new chapter within South Florida sports history. As the team takes to the field, they do so ready to win over the hearts of South Florida sports fans. 

“Seeing kids and young adults who play rugby finally have representation down here is so beautiful,” says Tania Jimenez, who works in marketing for the Sharks. “They have something to work toward and I’ve met people who drove down here simply because it’s the closest rugby to them. The rugby community thrives down here and I feel like they are so happy with the introduction of the Miami Sharks.”

The growth in popularity of international sports in the United States has directly contributed to the creation of teams like the Miami Sharks. As American audiences have become more exposed to sports like rugby through international competitions and broadcasts, there has been a growing interest in experiencing these sports firsthand. This trend has paved the way for the establishment of professional rugby teams in cities across the country, including Miami. 

An experience that has even caught the attention of some of the city’s other major sports stars down the road. 

“It just adds another dynamic for kids and fans,to aspire to play rugby,” star safety for the Miami Dolphins Jevon Holland tells Caplin News,” it’s great for people to have another avenue you know to dive into. I think it would be cool.” 

For South Florida, the arrival of the Miami Sharks represents more than just a new sports team; it’s a symbol of the region’s evolving sports landscape. While football may still reign supreme in the hearts of many, the Sharks’ presence offers a new and exciting alternative for sports enthusiasts looking for something different. 

“The community is embracing the team and I really think as the sport continues to take off, America will understand how insanely fun this game is,” Jimenez added optimistically. “The Rugby World Cup is coming to the USA in 2031, and I love knowing South Florida will be a hub to celebrate this beautiful sport.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Tania Jimenez’s name.

Sebastian Cuervo is a senior majoring in digital journalism with a focus in sports journalism. After his studies, he wishes to pursue a career as an on-air sports analyst.