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[SCMP Archive] HKIS rugby stronger than ever

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 3:57pm
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 3:57pm

[First published on Mar 05, 1989] The Hong Kong International School(HKIS) rugby team got their first taste of overseas success when they played against the Singapore International School(SIS) in Singapore early this year. And this triumphant first – sustained only after much sweating in a two-day, six-match tournament – bode well for the HKIS players, who will be flexing their muscles in the inter-school rugby tournament this month, in which they will be play against teams from the territory’s English Foundation Schools.

The Singapore success was actually the second time HKIS had beaten SIS, the first was when the two teams clashed last Christmas in a seven-a-side tournament in Hong Kong. It was then that SIS challenged HKIS to the January Tournament.

Meanwhile, morale among the HKIS players is at an all-time high. A beaming HKIS coach Stephen Keegan is more than optimistic about snatching the championship in this month’s tournament, which he said HKIS had never won all these year.

Training now takes place thrice a week, 1 ½ hours per session. The 19-strong teams comprise a nine-member “A” team and a 10-member “B” team. A “C” team of ninth graders have also begun league play.

But there were more gains aside form a trophy from the Singapore experience. “it was a good experience for the team to get together. They got to know each other better and got to develop skills and play better,” Mr Keegan said.

And, of course, there were also the inevitable “cultural exchange” and…”fun!”,  the unanimous response from the boys.

Rugby is one of the most popular sports at HKIS. But it Hong Kong it is still largely regarded as a dangerous game which takes a lot of brawn to play well. A face-to-face meeting with the seven HKIS players who played the final game in Singapore, however, dispelled this misconception. Fit they sure are, but definitely not hunky. And in fact in selecting the team, Mr Keegan looked for “great enthusiasm and good basic skills” rather than for midable physique.

The boys also readily jumped to the defence of the sport against the “dangerous” reputation. “We played three games a day for two days in Singapore and only a few of us got minor injuries,” one of the boys said.

Sure there is a potential for injuries. But if you’re well-prepared and fit, and learn to use your body properly, you’re not prone to getting hert,” another said against a chorus of approval.

“We have a few basketballers and swimmers as well- they balance their rugby with other sports,” said Mr Keegan.

Just as they keep the scale adjusted between school work and rugby. “It sometimes gets in the way (of one’s  homework) but it is not very often. It’s most important you strike a balance,” one of them opined.

While it is good to have plenty of rugby enthusiasts to choose from, Mr Keegan finds it also hard to turn people away. It is, he thinks, a sport that bars nobody.