Tourneys next month key to Hong Kong's HSBC core team bid
Tournaments in Zimbabwe and Hong Kong, both in the space of a fortnight next month, will play a crucial role in Hong Kong's bid to become a core team in the HSBC Sevens World Series next season.
Hong Kong have entered the 12-team Spur Sevens in Harare - a fortnight before the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens - in an effort to ramp up preparations for the London Sevens in May, the final qualifying tournament to decide the three new core teams for the 2013-14 season.
"We have already qualified for Twickenham so we know we have the squad capable of performing and there is a realistic chance to crack the top three in London," said Dai Rees, HKRFU's head of performance and national coach.
Hong Kong will embark on an African adventure on March 6, flying to Zimbabwe where they will come up against national teams and Super 15 franchises in the two-day tournament at the Harare Sports Club.
Hong Kong are among six national teams in the competition. The others are Zimbabwe and Georgia - both of whom have qualified for the Hong Kong Sevens, the pre-qualification tournament to decide core-team status - Kenya (already a core team who reached the final at the Wellington Sevens last weekend), Botswana and Zambia.
The South African Rugby Union's Academy team will also take part alongside South African franchises the Buffaloes, Bulls, Leopards and the Pumas. The Zimbabwe Goshawks round out the 12 teams.
"The lads are up for the challenge of Harare and Hong Kong, and then London and Moscow [World Cup Sevens in late June]," Rees said. "It is a formidable schedule but we relish the opportunity to up the intensity of our preparations in what will be a pivotal year for Hong Kong."
A 15-man squad will start an intense training schedule after the Lunar New Year holiday. The squad comprises Anthony Haynes, Simon Leung, Kwok Ka-chun, Tsang Hing-hung, Jamie Hood, Rowan Varty, Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Alex McQueen, Tom McQueen, Cado Lee Ka-to, Nick Hewson, Eni Gesinde, Lee Jones, Ben Rimene, and Fan Shun-kei.
"The players are involved in the 15s [domestic] competition and we will enter a condensed training period later this month," said Rees. "We wanted to take every opportunity to achieve a level of intensity in training and competitions that will help us prepare for our role as the only non-World Series circuit team at the Hong Kong Sevens. The Harare tournament offers us an ideal opportunity to hopefully hit our peak ahead of Hong Kong."
Hong Kong, by virtue of being crowned Asian sevens champions last season, will play alongside the 15 core teams at the Hong Kong Sevens. Another 12 teams will play in the second-tier pre-qualification tournament.