No room for complacency
Six-time SCC 7s champions Daveta boast Olympic champs in their midst, but won't take any team for granted
Fijian side Daveta are in town, bringing with them men who struck rugby sevens gold at the Rio Olympics in August, and they are looking for nothing less than victory at the Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens (SCC 7s) this weekend.
With Fiji's Olympic champions Jerry Tuwai and Jasa Veremalua in their ranks, Daveta may be favourites to lift the Ablitt Cup for the seventh time, but it is clear that having an Olympic gold medal hanging around their necks will make little difference at the Padang.
"Having rugby sevens at the Olympics may have raised the profile of the sport, but just because some of the lads have won the Olympics will not make any difference out on the field this weekend," said Penguins International RFC manager Craig Brown, speaking on the sidelines of the pre-tournament press conference at SCC yesterday.
"No one's going to think that they are going to win just because they've done it at the Olympics, and every team are going to step out there and battle in every single game."
United Kingdom side Penguins were in the two of the last three cup finals, having last won the SCC 7s six years ago, and with former All Black Sonsene Anesi on their roster, they are looking like serious contenders this weekend.
Tuwai seemed to agree with Brown, and was keen to emphasise that there will be no complacency in the Fijian ranks.
"The SCC 7s always attract a quality field and we will not be taking any team for granted," he said.
"The beauty of sevens is that any team can win on the day.
"Our main strategy is to focus on our own game. Our objective, as always, is to win the tournament and also develop some new players."
Development is also a key objective of the French development team, and captain Alexandre Lagarde insists that having rugby at the Olympics has already had an effect on the French side.
"We've played for many years in tournaments in Singapore, Dubai and Las Vegas and, with the game in the Olympics, there is clearly better planning for the team. And even for individual players now, in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics," he said, speaking through a translator.
YOG GOLD MEDAL
"We won gold at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games (in Nanjing, China), so there has already been investment in the team, but there is much better preparation now."
The SCC 7s are part of the French side's development programme and, while Tokyo is still four years away, Lagarde's eye - and efforts - are geared towards a podium finish.
"We're not going there as tourists - we are aiming for a medal," he said.
The Singapore national team will be facing the likes of Lagarde this weekend and, while there are no illusions about the gulf in playing standards, the local lads share Lagarde's sentiments - they will not go quietly into the night.
"We're not expecting results to go our way, but we will give it all we've got, and push any team we face all the way. We want to put in good performances and be competitive," said Singapore's Sidney Kumar.
"There has been a lot of talk about how we've been playing this year, and I think it's time we showcased all the blood, sweat and effort that we've put in over these last few months."
The Singapore side won only two of their 15 matches in the three-legged Asian Rugby Sevens Series and were relegated from the top division.
"There is no lack of a structure, system or passion. But we've just got to accept that other countries (in the region) are stepping up at a much faster rate than we are," said Sidney, who believes changes are already underway.
"On the field, we're focusing on processes and performances, not results. And, if we get that right, the results will take care of themselves."
Schools and colleges will also feature in the SCC 7s, which kick off today.
Tickets are priced from $10. Visit www.sccrugbysevens.com for more details.