Why come to the Natixis Cup? Carrie Lam might not be on the sidelines, but it does have free beer and Dan Carter
How many people will brave the cold (perfect rugby weather) and front up to see Racing 92 take on the Sharks at Aberdeen on Saturday?
It doesn’t get much better than free beer. That is a fact, plain and simple. Whether it will entice people to Aberdeen on Saturday to watch the Natixis Cup clash between Racing 92 and the Sharks is another matter.
“Bring a pal and enjoy two pints on the house” has been the Hong Kong Rugby Union’s hook this week for those sitting on the fence – not a bad deal at all.
But where there is free beer, there’s fire. Something like that anyway, and the fact the union is having to give away free pints suggests that perhaps tickets sales are sluggish.
Whether there is a decent crowd remains to be seen, but in the middle of a pretty heavy Hong Kong sports schedule, you can’t blame fans if they’re more inclined to stay home rather than front up.
The Volvo Ocean Race and the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon have come and gone, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s appearance at the VOR closing ceremony giving an indication of the standing that event holds – and the government’s investment.
It’s unlikely Carrie will be over on the south side of the island on Saturday afternoon singing the praises of the Natixis Cup and saying “we want it back” like she did at the Kai Tak Runway Park on Wednesday.
Then there is this “freezing” Hong Kong weather that saw the opening day of February trump all others this winter as the coldest yet – even if most of the rest of the globe would laugh off this cold snap that has its citizens resembling Eskimos.
Next week sees cricket’s Hong Kong T20 Blitz fire up, an event that is growing in its own right and something else for sports lovers to consider.
Why would you take the ever-so-convenient train ride out to Aberdeen? Well, there are two top sides in action from leagues – Super Rugby and the French Top 14 – that are in the top three in the world, along with the English Premiership.
But it’s an exhibition match, you say, we need something of substance. If a free-flowing try fest put on by some of the world’s best isn’t enough to get you over the line, how about this: Dan Carter is here, the 35-year-old All Black great who is effectively on one leg as his career sinks deeper into its twilight.
There is every chance this will be the last time the man considered by many to be the best fly half ever will play here in Hong Kong.
While rugby stars don’t transcend their sport like other big names, a glimpse of Carter should get any sports fan at least thinking about making the effort.
Then there are the stars of the future, led by Hong Kong’s own Matt Worley, who Carter himself gave a wrap and is a local rugby product edging closer to cracking the big time, something that certainly doesn’t fall out of trees around here.
Also in town is Sharks prodigy Sibusiso Nkosi, who was once nicknamed after the biggest rugby star of them all Jonah Lomu and is hell bent on playing his way into a Springboks cap.
Put it this way, there will be talent on offer that is not to be sneezed at and, whether it is an exhibition match or not, it is one of the few chances Hongkongers get to witness top-flight rugby.
And did I mention the free beer? Catch you all at Aberdeen.