Keith Robertson and Jamie Hood obtain SAR passports in time for crucial Olympic qualifier
Hong Kong stalwarts bring wealth of experience and flare to the senior men’s squad
The final pieces have fallen into place for Hong Kong in the lead up to this weekend's Asia Rugby Sevens Qualifier with backs Keith Robertson and Jamie Hood receiving their SAR passports - and their clearance to play.
"We've had a lot of help from people working hard to get this done and it's great," said Hong Kong coach Gareth Baber.
The 28-year-olds, who turn out for USRC Tigers and Hong Kong Football Club respectively in the domestic league, bring a wealth of experience to the Hong Kong squad.
"Keith is one of the top sevens players of all time for Hong Kong and, obviously, Jamie has been captain of the side and is one of the main reasons we've had the success we have had over the past few years," said Baber.
"It's a real boost to have them both available. We had plans in place in case things didn't work out, but they have.
"The squad have been lifted by this news as, obviously, it's been hanging around and now that slight cloud has lifted from over them going into the weekend."The Hong Kong squad had a recovery day yesterday in keeping with Baber's plan to taper off the intensity ahead of what promises to be a searching physical and mental test with so much on the line at the Hong Kong Stadium.
There will be hitouts today and tomorrow and the locals' campaign for a place in Rio begins with a clash against Iran first up around lunchtime on Saturday.
Robertson has meanwhile shaken off a slight hamstring strain and the all-clear has also been given to forward Mark Wright and winger Tom McQueen who will return to the park this weekend after three months recovering from torn left ankle ligaments.
"They're all good," said Baber. "Being a rugby player you're always going to have little niggles and grumbles and bumps.
"But everybody is healthy and we're in a good place at the moment."
Hong Kong are in pool B with Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines and Iran at the weekend, while pool A features favourites Japan, South Korea, China, Singapore and Taiwan.
The Koreans were given a searching runaround at King's Park yesterday as they look to upset reigning Asian champions Japan in the group stage.
Their impressive run to the Cup final at the Thailand Sevens - they lost that game to Japan 45-7 heaped pressure on Hong Kong in the race for second in this year's series.
In the end it was decided in Hong Kong's favour by points difference after the teams had finished the season tied on 29 points behind Japan's 36 from their three straight tournament wins.
And both the Hong Kong and Japanese camps have been keen to talk up the Korean's development over the past couple of seasons.
On the women's side of the draw, Hong Kong begin their campaign against Sri Lanka in the morning on a day that will see them also face China and Japan.
"It was always going to be tough," said coach Anna Richards. "There's not much between the top four sides in Asia."