Bledisloe Cup

The Rugby Championship

Perfect combination of business and pleasure

PUBLISHED : Friday, 31 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 February, 2014, 8:01pm

Russell Black, Projects Director, MTR Corporation

I have the normal New Zealand rugby 'credentials'. I played for 20 years, starting when I was five. I'll never forget the first international tour match I attended. It was 1956 and Waikato destroyed the Springboks 14-10. It was a character-building experience.

Not withstanding the Cup has been decided, this will be a full-blown test, there's no question. The score will be close. They'll throw it around, and it will be a high-scoring, fast game. It's unseasonably hot, so the heat may affect both teams who have come from temperatures under 10 degrees Celsius in New Zealand and Australia. Last week, Sydney had some of the coldest October days in 40 years.

There'll be a lot of competition within each team for places in Europe. Both teams are bringing new people.

I saw some NPC games in New Zealand in September and I agree with the test selection for New Zealand. Our selectors don't always get it right, I think they have this time.

The concept of playing test matches here is good for everybody. It's good financially for Australian and New Zealand rugby. Let's hope the Hong Kong government recognises the value of rugby and doesn't charge exorbitantly for the stadium in order to encourage regular rugby events in Hong Kong. Games like this create a great interest in the region.

The HKRFU deserves full credit for putting a great deal of effort and money into the sport. It raises the profile of the sport in Asia and further afield. The fact that two of the leading international teams decided to hold a full-scale rugby match speaks volumes. Hong Kong should work hard to keep teams of this calibre coming here.

There seems a high likelihood that in future we will see similar events in Japan, for financial reasons, as well as the growing popularity of the sport there.

A significant part of the Australian-New Zealand motivation must surely be financial revenue. Their revenue at home must be getting to the stage of saturation in terms of the calendar, the number of events and supporter fatigue. So it makes sense to develop a new market.

Japan must also be on the radar, as well as Hong Kong.

The game will live up to expectations. The normal problem with touring teams is when a national team is on tour and they haven't selected their best players. This is clearly not the case here. Often the Southern Hemisphere gets pretty upset when the Northern Hemisphere, from time to time, sends teams that are not top-class. Hong Kong's first Bledisloe will be exactly the opposite. This is the real deal.

When it comes to rugby events in Hong Kong, I always look forward to the banter. A unique feature of rugby in Hong Kong is the enormous number of lunches, dinners and social functions that come with the territory. Like many people here, my diary is jam-packed all week. The number of functions is a commentary on Hong Kong's popularity as a venue. Rugby spectators - and speakers - are turning up from all over the world. I have lived in Hong Kong for 33 years, and I've watched this feature grow year on year, no matter what the economy is doing.

The attractiveness of Hong Kong has been built up by the Sevens. In this respect, the two events are similar. The Sevens has developed into a unique institution in international rugby. And now we are holding a top-class test match, that perception that has been built up in the Sevens has automatically been applied, although they are quite different events.

We've explained to our less 'rugby experienced' guests that the Bledisloe will be taking a very different format and not to expect the Sevens. This is a two-hour game, with a bit of activity before and afterwards, not a three-day jamboree.

I'd like to have seen a curtain-raiser game between, say Hong Kong and China. Even if it's not a feature this year, perhaps it should be on the agenda for next year. It would benefit local interests in rugby, and help make it a more substantial event.

The other point is that as the Bledisloe is almost a sell-out - as is the Sevens every year - this is further justification for the government building a new stadium.

I will be spending the Bledisloe with my wife and 50 corporate guests. Another great feature of rugby in Hong Kong is how in Hong Kong the lines between business and rugby are blurred. It makes it easy to meet people you need to speak to in the corporate sense. One of the biggest British contractors is in town, and I will catch up with him during the week. Why is he here? Partly for business, partly because he's Irish and loves rugby!

Sam Farrands, Managing partner, Minter Ellison Lawyers

We are a relationship-based law firm, so the Bledisloe is the perfect event - good rugby mixed with good friends. I think the Bledisloe is going to be like a Barbarians game. Both sides will be throwing the ball around. It won't be like a normal game. It will be expansive rugby. Everyone on the team will get a run. The winner of the Bledisloe has been decided already, so it's a dead rubber. The Kiwis are results driven, but when these two teams play expansive rugby, my money is on Australia.

The rivalry between Australia and New Zealand stems from the fact we are too similar. They are traditionally the strongest rugby nation in the world. It's only been in the last 15 years that Australia have been able to come close to them. They are the ultimate foe. Beating New Zealand is the ultimate prize.

A proper Rugby World Cup Final is one between Australia and New Zealand. Consistently for the past 15 years, they've been the best teams in the world. Northern hemisphere, deal with it. This is the most high-profile rugby game ever played in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong people approach rare major sporting events that are held here with great tenacity. They get into it. But this time it will be a bit different to the festive atmosphere of the Sevens, everyone will be really watching the game. It won't be like when people have to open the SCMP on Monday to see who's won the Sevens . . . even when they had been there the day before.

The studies say we are the most well-recognised law firm in Australia, but we are still relatively new to Hong Kong and have been building our presence and profile here. The Bledisloe gives us a forum to do this, and we have taken up the Platinum package through the HKRFU for 25 people. In my tenure here, I've noticed a marked increase in the number of Australians at senior executive level.

I won't be approaching the game with any expectations apart from to see good, expansive rugby. It'd be different if the Bledisloe hadn't already been decided.