Asian Five Nations 2014

It’s all in the mind against the Koreans: Pale Tauti

Hong Kong have to climb a mental mountain to reach crucial goal, says former captain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 May, 2014, 9:53pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 November, 2014, 3:48pm

Hong Kong will need to overcome a mental mountain against South Korea if they are to seal their World Cup repêchage spot on Saturday, says No 8 Pale Tauti.

Former captain Tauti knows first-hand the agony and pain, which has accompanied defeat against the Koreans, especially the narrow 21-19 setback at home in 2012 and last year's 43-22 loss away.

"Playing them is more of a mindset issue and for some reason we don't seem to be able to get over the mental hump," Tauti said.

We have got to mentally toughen up and, if we can do this, half the battle is won
Pale Tauti

"We have got to mentally toughen up and, if we can do this, half the battle is won."

Tauti has relinquished the leadership role to flanker Nick Hewson, but will have to play a leading role at Hong Kong Football Club if Hong Kong are to stay on course for a meeting with Uruguay in the first repêchage stage of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup.

A win today and Hong Kong will secure the number two spot in Asia. And who knows, maybe a miracle can unfold in Tokyo in a fortnight, and it will be Hong Kong, instead of Japan, who will book the direct berth to the World Cup.

The tough and unyielding Koreans were down to 13 men at one stage last year, but still ran in seven tries in a convincing victory. In 2012, it was closer with a try three minutes from the end breaking Hong Kong's hearts.

It will be another titanic struggle with the rain set to even things up, although Tauti believes the weather will not help Hong Kong.

"Last year we did not field our sevens players, but this time everyone is available and the backs will complement the forwards. The rain will not aid good ball handling and will make it tougher for our backs which have a lot to offer," Tauti said.

With Hong Kong bidding to earn a core team spot in the IRB Sevens World Series, Hong Kong were at the London Sevens last May.

Hong Kong's big pack set up easy wins over the last two Saturdays against the Philippines (108-0) and Sri Lanka (41-10), but it has been widely acknowledged they will not have it all their way in the set pieces against the Koreans. "This is a step up and it is a big game," Tauti said.