ruggah: "The former North players need a strong leader"
We talked to the newly-appointed OpTic coach Casper "ruggah" Due ahead of the new lineup's first LAN showing to discuss his job of managing big personalities on the team.
The roster changes were marked by their fair share of drama as stanislaw went public with allegations of problems with "punctuality" and clashes between himself and the Danish players, René "cajunb" Borg, Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke and Nicklas "gade" Gade, who quickly took to Twitter to defend themselves.
Since then, the new OpTic lineup has been practising intensely for the ESL Pro League Finals in Dallas, where they will attempt to prove that the decision to go with an all-Danish roster was the right one.
Ahead of the event, we asked coach ruggah how he will face the challenge of avoiding these sorts of conflicts in a star-studded team:
How and why did you end up signing with OpTic?
I have stayed in touch with most of my former players. Some of them have needed personal coaching regarding personal issues. I have close a relationship with both the old North players and some of my former teammates and, luckily, they still want my input and advice. So that’s probably a part of why I was chosen when OpTic decided to go with an entirely Danish roster. I’m obviously really happy about that.
What’s your take on the drama in the former lineup, with stanislaw opening up about problems in the team and the Danes firing back on social media?
I know my players well, and, like k0nfig has publicly said himself, there’s some truth to what he wrote. My players aren't saints and they know they’ve made mistakes. But when it’s only one player’s perspective, things tend to be painted with a broad brush, and his picture isn’t one hundred percent accurate. I know the players and their personalities, so I can see how things can go off on a tangent when you have a leader who’s maybe a bit quiet and introverted. In those situations, the former North players definitely need a strong leader who can show the way.
So, are you that leader?
I am, and so is Snappi. And I think the whole situation with stanislaw is what made the boys look at what other possibilities were out there in cased they wanted to go with a full Danish roster. I also know their former coach [Chet "ImAPet" Singh] and he’s a really good coach, but he has a totally different approach. He’s much more analytical and I’m more of a manager who tries to change and improve stuff through player management.
Do you think that's what this lineup needs?
It’s no secret that there are some big personalities on this team, and that’s how it should be at the top level of the scene. So there are bound to be disagreements, and that’s where it’s important to unravel the knots and that the players know how to talk to each other in the right way. That’s what we’re working on now, learning to properly take in criticism instead of shunning it and starting fights. And that’s my biggest skill.
Like you said, the team has some pretty big profiles in k0nfig and JUGi. How far do you think this team can go?
It goes without saying that if those two hit their prime, we can beat anyone. It might be a cliché, but it’s not often you have two huge talents like that on the same team. Looking at Astralis, they have dev1ce, who stands out, and now maybe Magisk as a sidekick, and that’s sort of like how we do it. But traditionally, Danish teams haven’t been built around star players like this. I feel like, maybe apart from Astralis, we have the most stable foundation around our stars. From what I’ve seen, I’m confident in the team’s abilities and I only see positives in terms of making it work.
Talking about having a strong foundation - one of your players is still pretty unproven. We haven’t seen that much from gade yet - looking at his lack of experience on the big stage, does he fit in the team?
I've actually been pretty surprised with his stability. I was expecting several blunders and wrong decisions from him, but he’s much further ahead in his development than I thought. But of course he needs more experience with top teams, and that’s where he’ll show what weaknesses might be hiding. Then you have Snappi and cajunb, with Snappi being probably the IGL with the highest skill floor individually, and cajunb, who’s always been Mr. Consistent, no matter his role. But gade shouldn’t be forgotten in this team. He’s been flying under the radar for a while, he’s gotten his lucky break in OpTic and, so far, he’s really taken to the role and has great motivation to learn.
Your first test will be the upcoming ESL Pro League Finals in Dallas. What are your expectations for your performance at the event?
We are competitive and ambitious, so we always aim to win, of course. If we didn’t have Astralis in out first match, I'd think a spot in the playoffs was a possibility. They’re probably the best team in the world right now, and, if we lose, we only have one more chance in the lower bracket. And with the matchups we see in the first matches, anyone could be dropping down there. So if we can win one bo3 in the lower bracket, I wouldn't exactly be satisfied with that, but I would say it's realistic.