So long Sevens, now bring on the Bledisloe
Fans give big thumbs up to historic clash in HK
It was a case of so long but see you in November as the Sevens came to a close yesterday.
Australian and New Zealand fans throughout the stadium were looking a little worse for wear as a few days of hardcore action took its toll. But there was already plenty of talk going around about a return trip for later in the year - November 1 to be precise - when Hong Kong will host a historic fourth and final game of this year's Bledisloe Cup series between the southern hemisphere rivals.
'They will go at each other, simple as that,' said Paul Sargeant, who had made the trip from the Australian seaside city of Caloundra.
'Aussie and Kiwi rugby fans would go and see them play on a strip of sand out the back of a desert island if they had to, so we'll be back without question.'
Kiwi visitor Shane Pearce, from Nelson, was dismissive of earlier reports from his country that some fans felt they were missing out with the game's move to Hong Kong - or even that taking it away from the two nations involved might somehow lessen the occasion.
The Hong Kong clash will be the first time a Bledisloe Cup game has been played at a neutral venue.
'The feeling in New Zealand at the moment is that we have too much rugby down there anyway,' said Pearce. 'It will make things a little more special to spread it around.
'You'll get a few that might disagree but not many. It's good for the game.'
The move also won support from none other than Scotland legend Gavin Hastings, who said if rugby was to grow, the rulers of the game had to continue to take their product to the people.
'What we've seen in the past years is rugby establishing itself in emerging markets, places it has never been before and I think this is all part of that,' said Hastings.
'We have the Asian Five Nations now, and the Bledisloe coming here. Hong Kong has played a huge part in the game's push into Asia - you just have to look around the stadium over the weekend.
'This event is one of the catalysts for growth in rugby and so will be holding the Bledisloe Cup here. It's all about spreading the game.'
Tickets for the big match have been marked down at HK$1,080, HK$980 and HK$880 and they will go on sale for Hong Kong residents in mid-June.
But the prices were of little concern to those asked yesterday. All it needed, they said, was a little bit of forward planning. And maybe a little bit of luck.
'We all want to come,'' said Kiwi Chris Williams, from Dunedin. 'We're just not sure we can afford two trips like this in a year.
'You're paying about what you do back home for tickets, but the flights and hotels make it tricky. Maybe the horses will be kind and we can come.'