Super Rugby curtain-raiser is also audition for national team
Opening act to Super Rugby clash is no mere curtain-raiser
Before the Hito-Com Sunwolves take on the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Super Rugby action on Saturday, some of the best local players will get a run-out at the National Stadium in a match that is of some significance.
The President's XV, comprising members of Singapore's national training squad, will take on the World First Premiership Select, made up of the top players from the National Premier League.
While the match is a curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby main event, Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) vice-president Jonathan Leow said it is a chance for players to cement their place in the national squad.
"It is really a national selection trial for the best Premiership players," said Leow, when he addressed the media at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
"While the Singapore team have been training for about three to four months, it's not the full selection.
"This is an opportunity to bring across guys who have been seen very often and those who have not been seen as well."
Those who have never been involved in the national set-up, including expatriates who have lived here for three years and thus qualify for a call-up, will get an opportunity to prove their worth, said SRU general manager George Danapal.
"The World First team will be a mix of guys who are eligible to play for Singapore, so it gives them an opportunity to stake their claim," he said.
Players from some of the top rugby clubs in the country, including Wanderers RFC, Singapore Cricket Club and Bedok Kings have been drafted into the World First squad based on their performances in the six-team league.
"This also gives our rugby-playing community and those who are playing at the top level in Singapore an opportunity to get out onto the pitch and play at the National Stadium," Danapal added.
The match will also serve as a warm-up for the national players as they prepare to compete in Division 2 of the Asia Rugby Championship, which will be held in Uzbekistan in May.
The tournament features Guam, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and the hosts, with the winners earning promotion to Division 1.
"We have actually been training only once a week because we're also having our league games now," said Singapore captain Gaspar Tan, 27, who will skipper the President's XV side.
"This will be a chance to see how far we've come since the start of the league, especially since it's our first proper game together as a new batch of guys this year.
"It's a friendly on paper, but individually, I'm sure everybody knows that it's important to play at a certain level."
Following the game on Saturday, the national side will be in action again on April 8 when they face Gibraltar in a friendly at the Yio Chu Kang Stadium as they warm up for battle in Uzbekistan.
"We've taken stock of last year's campaign and deliberately looked at restructuring the league to give the national squad a little bit more time to prepare," said Leow.
"There's a bit more of a systematic approach to how we want to ensure that we give our national team the best opportunity and platform to perform at major tournaments."