Successful conversion | South China Morning Post
  • Thu
  • Mar 5, 2015
  • Updated: 12:30am

Hong Kong Sevens

The Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens is an international seven-a-side rugby tournament held every March as part of the Sevens World Series and featuring the world’s top teams.

Successful conversion

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 November, 2010, 12:00am

Tae kwon do, racquet sports and basketball have traditionally been the favoured after-school exercise for local youngsters, with rugby the preserve of expatriates. However, thanks to the growth of mini rugby all this is changing.

Most families flocking to King's Park on any given Sunday morning during the rugby season are Chinese. Such sights are welcomed by Colin Durbridge and other parents who run DeA Tigers. They are eager to see the game spreading in Hong Kong and for local youngsters to get the chance to not only enjoy the thrill of the sport, but to also reap the resilience and strength of character that is part of the game's philosophy.

'Mini rugby is teaching respect between kids by getting them to play together fairly,' says Durbridge, an International Rugby Board-qualified referee whose children, now grown-up, were introduced to the sport at the mini level.

'As well as physical exercise, it's also giving them a sense of sportsmanship by relying on other people, how to respect other people, play by the rules and learn how to win and lose in a mannerly way.'

Families living in the King's Park area were among the first Chinese to spot the potential of mini rugby, says Durbridge, who is glad to see more mums and dads becoming involved by training as referees or coaches.

Children can start playing at the age of four, and DeA's committee members are now receiving more requests from parents to write reference letters for school interviews, telling how their child has progressed at the game, has a sense of discipline, co-operates and can take instructions.

'Our club has changed from being mainly Western to 70 per cent Chinese. In the old days, the tradition was the management and coaches were Westerners. Chinese families started coming along and simply watching or leaving their kids there, but now they are getting involved. As a result, we're now more of a Chinese club.'

Durbridge says mini rugby has grown from a few clubs in the early 1980s to 17 affiliated to the Hong Kong Mini Rugby Union. Clubs have been set up in districts such as Sai Kung, Tai Po, Sha Tin, Tsuen Wan, Tin Shui Wai and Tuen Mun among other areas away from Hong Kong's more established rugby hotbeds.

Hong Kong's pint-sized players now have their own spot in the Guinness Book of Records after more than 2,800 children from 263 teams played 410 matches last month in the world's largest mini rugby tournament. The continued success of the game has seen the Hong Kong Sevens squad now made up of local players - Chinese, Western and Eurasian - some of whom began to hone their talents through mini rugby.

But it's not just the competitive spirit that flourishes. No child gets left behind whether they're shy, introverted or lacking confidence at running about for up to 10 minutes with stops for water breaks. 'Some kids don't play a full game and give up, sit down and count the blades of grass. What we do is calm down the active child and motivate the less active child,' says Durbridge, who coaches the under-six age groups.

'We have often seen a kid grow from shy and uncomfortable with other children, and without friends, to becoming quite happy to attend training and play. What we have mainly been able to do is help encourage the social interaction that the single child can often lack.'

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