Inaugural South-east Asia Sevens to boost local rugby
Singapore Sevens teams have tasty incentive to reach final of SEA 7s
The Singapore Sevens rugby men and women have a huge incentive come April at the inaugural South-east Asia Sevens (SEA 7s) tournament.
At an announcement yesterday, tournament organisers Rugby Singapore said that the day-long contest will be held on April 15 at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium, with the two finals staged at the National Stadium the following day.
"The rationale behind the SEA 7s is because the South-east Asia Games and the Asian Games are coming up," Rugby Singapore commercial manager Douglas Danapal told The New Paper, on the sidelines of the official announcement at Pan Pacific Singapore yesterday.
"It gives our own teams somewhat of a warm-up and trial run.
"It also allows for Singaporeans to get behind our national team, and there's a chance for the national team to play in the National Stadium."
The SEA 7s, jointly-sanctioned by World Rugby and Asian Rugby, will feature eight men's teams - Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Brunei, reigning SEA Games gold medallists Philippines, runners-up Malaysia and Singapore A and Singapore B.
The women's competition will see six nations - Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia and current SEA Games gold medallists Thailand - do battle.
Both the men's and women's teams will be split into two groups, with all 28 matches (admission will be free) to be played at Yio Chu Kang Stadium on April 15.
The top two in each group will advance to the last four, with both the men's and women's final scheduled at the National Stadium on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens.
The Singapore men picked up a bronze medal at last year's SEA Games on home soil and captain Daniel Marc Chow is eyeing victory in April.
"It will be a strong emotional and psychological boost if we can win this tournament. We are very disappointed with the result last year; despite the good preparation we had, we still fell short," said the 32-year-old.
"Any form of high-level competition is always welcome.
"2015 has been a mediocre year for rugby at best.
"So, we want to start on the right foot as we prepare for the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur."
There will be no prize money for the tournament, but Danapal said: "We realised that there were some gaps between the teams in Asia and South-east Asia, so we wanted to grow as a region together.
"We try to make the tournament as easily accessible as possible (for other teams) by covering all on-ground costs."
That means the visiting teams will have to bear only the travel cost to and from Singapore, with Rugby Singapore footing the rest of the bill.
One of the reasons Singapore won the bid to host a leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series (for the next four years) was the organisation of the SEA 7s.
"World Rugby recognised that having international events also helps develop our local community, our national team and the region as well," said Danapal.
"You didn't see Indonesia at the SEA Games, but you'll be seeing them at the SEA 7s tournament."
And Danapal added that the tournament is here to stay, with plans to expand the competition and woo potential sponsors.
"Beyond the World Rugby Sevens Series, this is the property of the Singapore Rugby Union," he said. "By the time year two or three comes, it will gain enough traction of its own so that more sponsors can come on board.
"Maybe we can even look at sponsoring flight tickets as well, and expanding it from just South-east Asian countries."
Top class support for Rugby 7s
The HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens have two more prominent backers.
At the official announcement yesterday, Pan Pacific Singapore was unveiled as the official hotel, while Volvo was named as the official car of the two-day tournament, which will be held at the National Stadium on April 16 and 17.
The five-star hotel will host 16 teams, including rugby officials and dignitaries and the resident manager, Steve Laine, said: "We are delighted to be the official hotel for the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens. Having been one of the official SEA Games hotels in June 2015, our hotel is no stranger to the sport.
"At the time, we accommodated both the rugby and the billiard teams, so we're able to anticipate the unique requirements of the rugby players."
As part of the deal, the hotel will also offer ticket holders discounts on beverages at its Atrium bar and lounge, in addition to a bed and breakfast room package for guests.
Volvo will provide its XC60 Sports Utility Vehicle in a contest, where the public can guess the number of rugby balls in the car to win a two-night weekend staycation at Pan Pacific Singapore.
The contest will run till Feb 25 at the hotel, and will then feature at the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens roadshow at Clarke Quay from Feb 26 to 28, and then the Volvo roadshow at Suntec City from March 7 to 13.
The Swedish carmaker will also provide VIP transport during the tournament.
- AQIL HAZIQ MAHMUD