World is shrinking as globe-trotting Rhinos forced to widen their scope

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 March, 2010, 12:00am

Hong Kong's police and army forces have been a backbone of rugby for many years, beginning in the early days of the colony and the Sevens back in 1976. One squad has the runs on the board - and the stripes on their shirts - to prove it.

Twenty-five years ago, the Rhinos RFC were borne out of a desire to get out and play a good game of rugby in Hong Kong. They widened their horizons and first played the British Club in Bangkok in 1986. They played everywhere they could in Asia, from Kuala Lumpur to Manila, from Vietnam to South Korea and even Nepal. Each time, they asked a player from that location to join them. The squad has grown and now numbers 12 nationalities in all.

Rhino Vincent Swift said: 'We've been gathering forces in Hong Kong all week, and played our annual fixture against the Hong Kong Police team, known as the 'Old Bill'. I'm 53, and the average joining age is now 30, so we have a veteran squad and a younger one. We're celebrating our 25th anniversary at the Sevens. Essentially, we've run out of places to play in Asia, so we broadening the base to places as far afield as Cuba.' The advance party of the Rhinos management are putting the final touches to their forthcoming 25th anniversary tour to Istanbul to play the Ottoman Turks. 'For a club with a distinguished tradition of touring exotic Asian destinations, we wanted to go somewhere special,' said club captain Ollie Jones. 'Istanbul fits the bill as it's right at the limit - where east meets west, where Asia meets Europe'.

Reminded that Havana and Cape Town had probably breached the geographical limits of Asia, the captain quipped: 'Well, the Rhinos management made those decisions while celebrating at the Sevens, so at the time they may well have thought Central America and South Africa were actually part of Asia.'