Josh Hrstich shines at Hong Kong’s Tigers after Irish jaunt and some help from former All Blacks
The No 8 is one of the form players in the HKRU Premiership and is confident his new side are heading in the right direction
New Zealander Josh Hrstich gained plenty from his two-year stint playing rugby in Ireland, including some potential guests during next year’s British & Irish Lions tour in his homeland.
The Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers recruit has come to Hong Kong after two seasons playing for Limerick-based club Garryowen FC in the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
“I’ve already got a few Irish mates ringing me up to see if my couch is free during the tour,” Hrstich said.
“It’s always good seeing the All Blacks play. I’ll have to wait and see if I can get back for it.”
The keen All Blacks fan found himself in Ireland as a result of a former New Zealand player – Andy Leslie – through a connection at Hrstich’s home club in Wellington, Petone.
“I was playing footy back home at Petone and one of the old boys who was an ex-All Black, when he finished playing in New Zealand he went over there to coach,” Hrstich said.
“He got an email from them saying ‘have you got any players that would be keen to head over’, so he hit me up and I found myself over there.”
Hrstich has exploded on to the scene in the HKRU Premiership this season and credits a lot of his development at No 8 to another Kiwi international.
“I was lucky enough to be coached by Rodney So’oialo in my last year at Petone and he told me that there is more out there than New Zealand and I’m good enough to go out and have a look and see what else is out there,” Hrstich said.
“I learned a lot from him and I am very grateful for all the little tips and tricks I have learned from him for playing No 8.”
While Hrstich credits his time in Limerick – which he describes as “a real rugby city” – for making him a better player, he was keen to continue his career closer to home.
The 25-year-old has impressed over the opening four rounds with his ability to run and carry.
“I like having the ball and I like being involved in the game and being able to put in some work for the team and get some go forward,” he said.
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“I am really enjoying being here. It’s fast-paced compared to what I have been playing in Ireland.”
Tigers play Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish in the HKRU Premiership today and – with Tigers, Scottish and two other teams locked on two wins – Hrstich knows a victory is crucial for his side to end the first round of matches with a victory.
“This Saturday is a must win for us. We are due to start clicking now and we don’t really have any more excuses,” he said.
“We just need to learn to control the game a bit more, we are a bit helter skelter with a lot of new guys getting used to playing with each other.
“We’re working hard at training and we are getting tight off the field. That is going to be good for us to push on.”
In other men’s matches, Societe Generale Valley look to rejoin the winners list when they host Kowloon and Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC clash with Natixis HKFC.
In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, Tigers take on Valley, CPM Gai Wu Falcons face HKFC Ice and Kowloon Ladies lock horns with SCAA First Pacific CWB Phoenix.