Someone will have to tell ageing rocker Bruce Johnston you can’t throw the ball forward or tackle the man without the ball. In the US of A, they do both.
Bruce, 70, and The Beach Boys will take centre stage on the Saturday as the Sevens gets ready to go Surfin’ So Kon Po. “We’ve played the Super Bowl, but never a rugby sevens tournament before and are excited to be part of one of the world’s most iconic sports events,” he says.
For the first time – if you forget Asia’s all-girl “super group” Blush who fronted up two years ago and could hardly be heard in what in the end was an even bigger Blush for organisers – the Sevens will get a proper rock band with all the proper sound equipment.
And it will be one memorable party, says Rod Mason, the tournament operations manager, who will need all the harmony in the world to remain calm and composed as the biggest Hong Kong Sevens, with 28 teams, is staged this year.
Rod is tearing his hair out worrying about seconds and milli-seconds, and praying that games don’t over-run their allotted time. Boasting of being big is one thing, but being large also carries a fair load of problems.
Yet, the International Rugby Board’s decision to use the season-ending London Sevens as the tournament to unearth core teams for next season has led to our event being used as a pre-qualifier for 12 regional teams with aspirations of joining the big boys. This has led to the extra teams, hence nine extra games.
It has also created headaches as organisers try to squeeze in 70 games – Fiji’s victory over New Zealand in the cup final last year was the 61st and last game – in three days and in the same time period.
They have got around it in a very Hong Kong way by thinking out of the box. They have pushed the teams’ march past from the traditional Sunday slot to Saturday and the colourful walkabout has been reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes. Lucky these are fit young men in their prime for they will have to just about fly around the pitch.
The show will begin as usual at 5pm on the Friday. All 28 teams will get a run which means 14 games with the last kick-off being 9.30pm. On the Saturday, there will be 28 games which will conclude the preliminary pool stage. And, of course, the march past, plus 30 minutes of The Beach Boys. Sunday is all rugby, with a massive 28 games – the Cup final is scheduled for 7pm.
Rod, an old-hand at running the show, has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s meticulously. In previous years, a match was allotted 22 minutes – that is a game lasting 16 minutes including an interval in-between. Through experience, Rod has discovered now that on average a game will last 18 minutes.
With every second being precious on Sunday, organisers have reduced the time for each game to 21 minutes which effectively means only three minutes between games when the crowd can party.
This year’s Sevens will be bigger but will the revelry be muted due to less time for the deejay to spin music, taking into account all the advertisements that run on the giant screen? “No” says Rod, virtually patting himself on the back. You know he has come up with a solution. And that is all ads will be played during half-time. The break between games will solely be for music.
“In fact, there will be more music this year than in the past, and of course The Beach Boys,” says Rod.
So put on your dancing shoes, especially on the Saturday when The Beach Boys will be doing the Kokomo.
“Aruba, Jamaica, Ooh I wanna take ya.....”
And, someone, please remind Bruce Almighty there is no need for protective pads and helmets in this game – only real men play rugby union.