Team Singapore Men's rugby team in action. Photo: Jeffrey Chiang/SRU
They took the bronze medal at the 28th SEA Games and the runner-up title at last year’s Southeast Asian (SEA) 7s. When asked if they were ready to come out on top at this year’s edition of the SEA 7s come 15 April, Team Singapore men’s rugby 7s captain Marah Ishraf laughed modestly: “Sounds good, right?”
However, his tone took a turn for the earnest as he shared: “This year, we’re definitely aiming to make the finals again, but it’s important that we take things one step at a time. We’ll see where we go from there.”
Over at the women’s team, a similar tune is being sung. Having finished second both at the SEA Games in 2015 and at last year’s SEA 7s, the team is also gunning towards a place in the finals of the regional 7s meet this weekend, according to captain Alvinia Ow Yong.
Team Singapore women's rugby team in action. Photo: Gozan Images /SRU
Both teams may rank among the leading sides within the Southeast Asian region, but they remain grounded in their approach towards the upcoming SEA 7s despite previous successes.
Organised by the Singapore Rugby Union and in conjunction with the Singapore Rugby 7s, the SEA 7s tournament aims to help develop the sport locally and regionally.
True to this objective, both captains revealed that they expected their opponents to be in top form for the second instalment of this competition, and that none were to be underestimated. Asserting that they were seeking to play their best, they conveyed that they were more focused on progress and growth, rather than an overall title.
Team Singapore men's rugby team in action. Photo: Jeffrey Chiang / SRU
“We don’t really have many tournaments here in Singapore, so this SEA 7s is a good initiative for us to get better exposed to the region,” Alvinia expressed.
With fairly young team members under their charge, the captains emphasised the importance of consistency and gaining playing experience, with the aim to improve gradually and steadily.
Ishraf explained: “We will take one game at a time. From our first game, whatever the result is, we will set a standard. We want to improve 2-3% going into the next game.”
Having ramped up their training intensity to around four sessions a week, the teams are eager to meet their regional rivals on the pitch. However, when questioned whether they were making special preparations for their games against Thailand, the previous winners of both the men’s and women’s SEA 7s titles in 2016, the captains didn’t think it would be necessary.
Team Singapore women's team in action. Photo: Jeffrey Chiang / SRU
“Each team has its own gameplay, strengths, and weaknesses. But we don't target a particular team. We can’t focus all our resources on Thailand and forget about the rest. We’re trying to have a rounded game so that we can react and adjust to each opponent as they come. Every time we step onto the field, we will do our best,” Alvinia remarked.
Of course, there is one other key factor that the duo also believes to be significant to their team’s success: the enjoyment that the players derive from rugby. As Ishraf emphasised: “What’s important is that the players are happy coming for training, and that they want to learn more. At the end of the day, it’s important that they gain something new.”
Indeed, it is perhaps this grounded approach, quiet confidence, and passion for the sport that will take both the teams far.
Will they fulfill their goal of making it to the finals? Watch them live at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium on 14 April! The top two teams in each category will play for the SEA 7s title at the National Stadium the following day.