From : ZimbabweSevens.
7 March 2013
Hong Kong’s pool for the Spar International Sevens in Zimbabwe (9-10 March) includes HSBC Sevens World Series (HSBC SWS) core team Kenya as well as the Zambezi Warriors.
The squad will use the Spar Sevens as an important warm-up opportunity ahead of their appearance alongside the 15 core teams on the HSBS SWS at the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens at end-March.
“As a squad, it’s important for us to keep things in perspective,” said Hong Kong Rugby Football Union (HKRFU) Head of Performance and National Coach, Dai Rees. “We are looking at Zimbabwe as first and foremost a training weekend with a tournament rather than going in intent on winning. Our targets are more expansive than winning in Zimbabwe. Of course it would be great to come back with something from Harare but what we have been wanting to do all along is to build intensity ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens and we are excited to be able to have the opportunity to play against a couple of top sides that will also be in Hong Kong.”
Hong Kong is one of six national teams confirmed for the two-day competition at the Harare Sports Club. The other national teams are Zimbabwe, Kenya, Georgia, Zambia and Botswana. Teams from South Africa are also involved including the South African Sevens Elite Player Development side and the Bulls Academy team.
Coach Rees commented on the team’s pool saying, “It’s ideal to have a fixture versus Kenya as an early introduction to the levels we are going to need to be at not just for Hong Kong but also for the London Sevens and Rugby World Cup Sevens over the coming months. We are also happy that key South African teams and Zimbabwe will be in action. We hope that on day two we can pick up a few fixtures against these teams. We don’t want to avoid those games as there is no better way to test yourself than against top-flight teams.”
Commenting on the Kenya Sevens team, Rees said, “We’ve watched their IRB Sevens highlights and it will be an interesting match-up. They have raw talent, pace and physical ability, but former England coach Mike Friday has helped them implement the structure and organization that has made them even more dangerous. They have reached a Cup final once already in Wellington so we are well aware of what they are capable of and the guys are eager to get stuck in against them.”
Unruffled about playing in a competition just two weeks out from the Hong Kong Sevens, Rees added, “You can’t be concerned about that at this level of performance. The players can only perform in Hong Kong if they are asked to perform under pressure in the lead-in. We used to wrap guys in cotton wool due to the lack of depth in the squad in the early years but we found that they can’t perform at the top end then. There is always a risk of injury playing two weeks before a tournament but there is a greater risk for us that we won’t be at the level we need to be on Friday night in Hong Kong if we don’t get the match practice in early.”
Hong Kong will bring a squad of 14 players to Zimbabwe with Rowan Varty again leading the team as captain. The team will depart for Zimbabwe on Wednesday evening and return on the following Tuesday, leaving them just two weeks to prepare for the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens.
“We have been given some flexibility by the organisers to bring a squad of 14 with hopefully the ability to select 12 for each day of the tournament or even each match. This is really helpful as we have a few priorities in terms of getting players from the squad who didn’t get much time during the HSBC Asian Sevens Series or those who are on the fringes of selection a look.”
Rees is happy with the team’s preparations since they entered sevens training after Chinese New Year saying, “I’m very pleased that the squad has come in and picked up right where they left off after the Singapore Sevens in November. The skill and fitness levels are where we want them to be, which is a great compliment to the entire squad considering the players have been tasked with this whilst being in the midst of our domestic (15s) season. As a group of athletes, they haven’t batted an eyelid and we are in a good place now.”