Tigers ‘building a brotherhood’ in the mould of Super Rugby’s Highlanders, says scrum half Josh Walden
The 27-year-old plays a key role as his side take down Valley 38-27 to leap to outright top of the table
He’s seen first-hand what it takes to win a Super Rugby title and scrum half Josh Walden feels the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers are building a “brotherhood” similar to the one that carried the Highlanders all the way in 2015.
The Tigers continued their impressive season in the Old Mutual International Men’s Premiership on Saturday, seeing off Valley 38-27 to vault to outright top of the table.
Walden did a couple of preseasons with the Highlanders and also spent time with their development side and can sense similarities between the New Zealand club and Tigers.
“I was pretty lucky to be part of that environment. They worked on a brotherhood, that was the main thing,” Walden said. “It was 1-35, every squad member was valued. I think we have got that with the Tigers this year, I’ve been told we have got pretty good depth compared to previous years so I’m hoping we can start the same sort of culture and carry on.
“I think we are building a good brotherhood, there is still a long way to go obviously but I think if we can keep the same core group of players for a couple of years it could definitely get [like the Highlanders].”
Walden has played an integral role in his first season with Tigers, drawing on his experience at the Super Rugby club and his time spent working with All Black scrum half Aaron Smith.
“I did a fair bit of stuff with Aaron and obviously being the best half back in the world it was great to learn a few tips off him. It was invaluable experience,” Walden said.
The 27-year-old is enjoying the Hong Kong lifestyle but has taken time to adjust to the lighter training load.
“It was just very professional [at the Highlanders], recovery wise and how to treat your body, it’s pretty intensive,” he said.
“I think the big difference here is I’m not training Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, I’m only training Tuesday and Thursday so you have got to do your extras to keep up your skill level. I have found that quite difficult.”
Walden, who has been playing for Otago in New Zealand’s Mitre 10 Cup in recent years, feels the Tigers are building towards something special as they make their run for the grand championship play-offs.
“We’re tracking quite well at the moment so we have just got to keep the momentum building,” he said. “It feels out on the field that we are playing for each other which is probably making a difference on the scoreboard.”
The Tigers were on top throughout against Valley, leading 24-13 at half-time through tries to Braam Gerber, Joe Ellyatt and Lawrence Miller and finding all the answers as Valley came storming back within four points soon after the break.
A second try to Ellyatt and one to fly half Robbie Keith kept things ticking over for the Tigers in the second half, while Valley’s tries came through Carl Marks, Dayne Jans and a penalty try.
The other matches on Super Saturday saw Bloomberg HK Scottish thump Herbert Smith Freehills HKCC 58-10 and Natixis HKFC defeat Kowloon 22-9.
In the KPMG Women’s Premiership, Gai Wu edged Valley 22-15 and Tigers ran over HKFC 44-12 in the top tier, while CWB Phoenix got home 24-10 over Kowloon and Tai Po hammered City Sparkle 47-0 in the development tier.