Now that Singapore is staging a leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, the next step should be to build a team capable of playing in the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens in front of a sell-out Singapore National Stadium. That is the message that former New Zealand All Black 7s captain Karl Te Nana shared with aspiring national youth players at this weekend’s Heroes in the Making youth development.
Former New Zealand All Black 7s captain Karl Te Nana leading HITM participants in a Maori pose.
Organised by the Singapore Rugby Union, the Heroes in the Making progam is one of the ancillary activities of the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and aims to develop future national players by identifying talented young players for future national team representation and sending them to intensive training camps conducted by rugby legends and world-class coaches. At the end of the two-day intensive program, a selection panel chose two boys to attend a two-week training stint in New Zealand.
“The Heroes in the Making program is a great initiative,” said Te Nana, who skippered New Zealand to the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens and 2002 Commonwealth Games gold. “The two guys who are chosen to go New Zealand will be able to immerse themselves in New Zealand Rugby. Hopefully they can come back and pass on their knowledge to their friends and teammates and I hope the others will learn off that.”
He added: “I hope to see that all the kids in the program go on to represent Singapore in 15s or 7s, and hopefully Singapore will have a 7s team in the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens one day. To see a Singapore team in the World Sevens Series, playing in their home tournament and trying to make the Cup round, that's what the kids should aim to do, because it can become reality. We saw with Japan’s success over the last few years in both 15s and 7s and I believe the same can happen here in Singapore. Its so important to give these kids the ability to dream big.”
Te Nana, is no stranger to winning the World Sevens Series, winning it five consecutive seasons from 1999 to 2003. Standing at 6ft 4in, the fleet-footed winger scored a stunning 113 tries for the All Blacks Sevens in 42 tournaments from 1996 to 2003.
Karl Te Nana putting the youth players through their paces.
“The All Blacks 7s was undefeated in the 2001 World Cup and 2002 Commonwealth Games”, recounted Te Nana who skippered the World Cup side which included the late Jonah Lomu. “While we have a player like Jonah Lomu, who was a once in a generation player, capable of scoring 4 to 5 tries from 90 metres out, mental toughness was really the key. With 7s rugby, you have to be mentally strong every time you step on the field.”
“Te Nana is a legend in 7s rugby and we learnt so much from him over the past two days,” said Umar Shaari, 15, from St Andrew’s Secondary. “He expects a high level of intensity from us in everything we do. That’s how the All Blacks train and we really worked our socks off. It will be a dream come true if I can be part of a team that qualifies for the World Sevens Series one day.”
Added Malcolm Sim, 17, from Pioneer Secondary: “One thing we learnt from this weekend is the importance of team work and communication. We know we got to work very hard to get that shot at wearing the national jersey. The chance to represent Singapore and to play in front of our friends, family and fellow countrymen at the National Stadium is worth fighting for.”
Singapore is the eight leg on the 10-stop HSBC World Sevens Series which kicks off in early December and Te Nana expects more surprises in the upcoming season.
“Already some of the other teams had been in training for a couple of weeks to prepare for next month’s Dubai 7s and had already went to a few tournaments, while New Zealand hasn’t,” warned Te Nana. “New Zealand will probably start the season a little behind in the first two tournaments. Now that Sir Gordon Tietjens has gone to Samoa and Ben Ryan has stepped down as Fijian coach, it’s gonna be interesting to see how the teams adapt to the coaching changes. Teams who has consistency in terms of having coaches from previous seasons such as Scotland, Kenya, Argentina are probably going to have a leg-up on the nations who had coaching changes.”
Added Te Nana, who is now a renowned rugby pundit: “Last year we saw Kenya winning its first Cup Final here in Singapore, Scotland and Samoa winning in London and Paris. That’s the beauty of Sevens rugby, anyone on their day can legitimately win a tournament. You still have to give Fiji the favourites tag being the Olympics gold medallist, they have been the best team over the last two seasons and will be tough to beat if they can keep their consistency. England showed in Rio how good they can be when everything comes together. I’m not surprised by their rise, they have won a couple of Cup finals before and after Rio, they will now have the confidence. That's another team that could be challenging for the Series title.”
The HSBC World Sevens Series kicks in Dubai on 2 December and tickets to the 2017 Singapore Sevens which takes place on 15 and 16 April 2017 are now on sale.
Till 31 December 2016, two-day season passes for adults (S$120 for Category 1 and S$40 for Category 2) are 20% lower than the general sale period (1 Jan 2017 onwards). To mark the launch of the revamped website www.singapore7s.sg
, organisers are offering the first 5,000 Category 1 ticket-buyers a free HSBC Singapore Sevens commemorative t-Shirt. This offer is valid from 17th October to 31st December while stocks last.