Former Pro 12 player Dylan Rogers loving life as Hong Kong’s front-row saviour
The 32-year-old earns praise on debut and predicts Japan to come out firing in the Asia Rugby Championship on Saturday
Leigh Jones hailed him for his role in Hong Kong’s first “solid platform for three or four seasons” and Dylan Rogers is loving every minute of his second coming to professional rugby.
The 32-year-old prop, who spent three seasons playing for Ireland’s Connacht in the Pro 12, came to Hong Kong in late 2013 to pursue his career as a quantity surveyor.
A touch over three years later, the South African is an international player having won his first cap against Japan in the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) last week.
“I came here to take a back step in rugby, but now I’m loving the game as much as I did when I was 26 years old,” Rogers said.
“Mentally I feel like I’m keeping up with the young lads, I’m still pretty fresh. I’ve probably been looking at [playing for Hong Kong] for the past year and a half as something I was targeting and working towards.”
After another strong season for Hong Kong Cricket Club, Rogers started training with Hong Kong seven weeks before the ARC and became a member of the elite rugby programme in mid-April.
Rogers has also played for Griquas and Western Province in South Africa’s Vodacom Cup, as well as the University of Cape Town, where he lined up alongside current Hong Kong teammate Matt Rosslee.
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He was impressive in the front row on debut as Hong Kong pushed Japan in a 29-17 loss in Tokyo and he is thriving on being back in the professional environment.
“I don’t think there can be, in terms of Asian rugby, a better place to make your debut than Japan,” he said.
“One of the benefits of the programme is that you are around the guys everyday and over the last four to six weeks I’ve really got to know the guys.”
Expectations are high for Hong Kong in the return leg against Japan at the Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday, but Rogers knows the Brave Blossoms have another gear or two.
“We are quietly optimistic, we know there is an opportunity for us,” he said. “But we know they are going to be hurting a bit and coming out here firing.
“We rose to the occasion in the beginning [in Tokyo], but then there were moments where we let ourselves down by not following the correct processes.
“The massive thing on Saturday is the reduction of errors from each individual player, that has been the big talking point.”
Traditionally an area in which Hong Kong has struggled, the scrum will again be a key area and Rogers is priming himself for another tough shift.
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“There was a lot of talk about the scrum going in to the [first] game and we have spent a lot of time working on it,” Rogers said.
“We know they targeted [the scrum] and we managed to get a solid platform, but we’ve heard that this week they have put a lot of emphasis and work into their scrum at training. We are expecting it to be a much tougher challenge up front.”