Rugby RSRC Barro Kessler – Michiel Sneijders 26.3.2023_Aysha Gasanova
Head Coaches Barro Kessler and Michiel Snijders. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

RSRC is a bit of an underdog. Unlike most teams in the first division, they don’t have professional rugby players with years of experience. But their ambition to compete at the hightest level is becoming reality. That exceeds the expectations of head coaches Michiel Snijders (52) and Barro Kessler (44), who guided the team to first-division promotion in their first year in charge. “Initially, we just wanted to stay in the first division, we would have been proud and happy with that”, admits Snijders.

Now, they have their sights set on promotion to the Ereklasse (honors class), which is the highest level of rugby in the Netherlands. “Until two weeks ago, we were on a ten-game winning streak, and we started realising that the first division is also doable. As a coach, I know that we’re better than we think we are.”

Rugby RSRC team – derby Utrecht 26.3.2023__4_Aysha Gasanova
RSRC team talk after the victory. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

Winning mentality

The breakthrough to top-level rugby, while simultaneously juggling a university degree, comes with certain sacrifices. “Make use of your resits!”, reveals club president and player Mees Konijnendijk (22). He is also completing a double degree in Business Administration and Law. “I didn’t make a few of my exams this year, but I still have the resits to come in the summer. The board year ends in May, so I planned to do my resits when I’m finished with the board year.”

Rugby RSRC Mees Konijnendijk 26.3.2023_Aysha Gasanova
Club president and player Mees Konijnendijk. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

The students may not have as much professional experience, but that is not stopping them from dreaming big. The winning mentality was helped be installed by the Italian captain of the team, Matteo Avitable (21, third-year International Business Administration).  “Playing against these opponents is bloody tough, but we put our feet on the floor and said: ‘Screw this, we’re going to work and prove something here.’”


Rugby RSRC Matteo Avitable 26.3.2023_Aysha Gasanova
Team captain Matteo Avitable. Image credit: Aysha Gasanova

The underdog-turned-league leaders have also proven to others, and themselves, that anyone can achieve such a feat in rugby. “When a bunch of idiots who drink a bit too much and didn’t seem to have much going for them won the second division last year, a lot of people said that we would not achieve much in the first division. I think we surprised a lot of people, and ourselves!”


RSRC is a student association, after all; drinking was one of the few social activities that created a culture of fun and unity at the club. “Students are a much tighter-knit group than non-student clubs”, claims head coach Michiel. “The non-student clubs are more individuals who only come together on a rugby night. Our student teams live together, eat together, and train together.”