Hong Kong Sevens: A Combination of World-Class Rugby and Merrymaking
by: Andrea Lo
March 26, 2012
The annual Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is part of a series of international rugby tournaments hosted under the IRB Sevens World Series. The 3-day event, held during the last weekend of March every year, was first established in 1976 and took place in the city this past weekend. Sponsored by HSBC and coordinated by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, it is contested by an assortment of top national rugby sevens teams, including the thrice-winning Samoa and five-time champion Australia. The 2012 cup final was won by Fiji, another team which regularly graces the top of the league tables.
The Hong Kong leg of the tournament is considered to be the premier event â€“ as well as the most prestigious â€“ within the seriesâ€™ calendar, as it features 24 teams as opposed to 16 in other Sevens matches, and also attracts the largest number of spectators and patrons. Each year, the Hong Kong Stadium sees some 40,000 fans dressed up in a variety of costumes in a merry atmosphere that makes it one of the leading events on the cityâ€™s social and sporting calendar. So overwhelming is the revelry and no-holds-barred attitude displayed by spectators that the notoriously slapdash South Stand of the Stadium â€“ where disorderly individuals have been arrested in the past â€“ that officials were forced to limit its entry to fans over 18 years of age in 2007.
Revelry aside, the 2012 Sevens had a particularly special significance, as teams compete in qualifying matches for the IRB World Series. On opening night, the Hong Kong team had surprised many with a close 17-14 victory over Uruguay; having also won in matches against Tonga and China, the victories indicate that the team is presently leading the way in the Qualifier Tournaments in their pool.
At the Sevens, support from fans is often unevenly distributed towards such leading teams as England and Autralia, due to the large expatriate community alongside scores of tourists in attendance. Despite Hong Kong’s eventual loss in the quarter-final against Japan, whereby they lost out on a place as a core team in the Sevens World Series, the home teamâ€™s supreme efforts ensured that Hong Kong received what the South China Morning Post describes as “a huge boost of confidence and momentum” that saw the crowd “fully behind their hometown heroes.”