Mysterious Germany stand in Hong Kong's way again
The Germans have surprised everyone with their rugby efficiency and promise more to come
Having been absent from the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens since 1992, Germany came into the week very much under the radar. Now, after topping pool E of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Qualifier and then holding off Morocco 19-14 to set up a semi-final clash with Hong Kong, who they edged in the group stage, the question is being asked: who are these mysterious Germans?
"We knew that not many of the other teams here would know much about us – and that's how we like it," said their 32-year-old skipper Clemens von Grumbkow, who is one of the few in his team to have played professionally, turning out for sides in New Zealand, France and, most recently, Italy. "So far we've come away with the results we've wanted. We've prepared really well and we've done our homework. Now the time has come for us to show what we can really do."
The team, which is comprised largely of students, placed fifth in the 2015 European Grand Prix Series, finishing level on points with world series core nation Russia (and ahead of Portugal), to book their first trip to Hong Kong in nearly a quarter of a century, and are clearly relishing the experience.
"It doesn't get any better than this – this is what the guys have trained so hard for, made so many sacrifices for and things are going to plan," said Chad Shepherd, Germany's New Zealand-born coach. "There's so much to play for and Hong Kong are obviously a quality team, but we're looking forward to the challenge."
As one might expect from the Germans, the team is well organised in defence and efficient with the ball going forward – but there's a lot more to them than those clichés would suggest.
"Yes, we do have those traits but we also play with flair, which is what we always encourage," continued Shepherd. "There's a lot of skill there and that's been helping us, so hopefully we'll see a lot more of that on Sunday."
Germany's strategy of disrupting Hong Kong's tempo during their 12-5 victory over the hosts on Friday clearly reaped rewards, but Shepherd said his side are not going to rely on the same game plan again, especially given they'll have the full force of the Hong Kong Stadium crowd against them.
"We'll take a look at the video [of Hong Kong's last-gasp win over Spain] but we'll likely change things up, make a few adjustments and go to what works for us," said the former scrum-half. "We've had good support from the crowd so far but obviously that's going to flip around. I think there might be a couple of nasty words directed our way – but that's all part of it.
"We're comfortable in the fact that we deserve to be here and we really can't ask for a better occasion."
Regardless of whatever happens one thing is for sure: we won't be waiting another 24 years before we see the Germans in Hong Kong again.