Super Rugby

Stormers and Sunwolves to light up home of Hong Kong soccer as Super Rugby struggles to take hold in Singapore

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck hopes for an atmosphere akin to the Hong Kong Sevens as clash is confirmed for May 19

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 6:25pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 February, 2018, 10:27pm

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is hoping for an atmosphere akin to the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens when his side take on Japan’s Sunwolves in the first Super Rugby match played in the city.

The game will take place at Mong Kok Stadium on May 19 and will be only the second time rugby has graced the home of Hong Kong soccer.

Organisers are hoping the 6,000-seat stadium will be at capacity for the clash, with Fleck urging the rugby community to come out in force.

“If the people of Hong Kong can bring the same energy and the environment they bring to the Hong Kong Sevens it will be a fantastic game to be part of,” he said.

“Hong Kong is built on a bit of rugby history with the Sevens so I’m sure the fans will really embrace us and the Sunwolves.

“The crowd always plays a massive role, a full stadium can bring the best out of both teams and we are pretty excited about the opportunity.”

While Singapore’s National Stadium has hosted three Sunwolves’ home matches in each of the past two seasons to reduce travel time for South African sides, only one game will take place in the Lion City this year.

While crowd numbers have disappointed in Singapore, the Sunwolves hope they can engage with the 10,000-plus Japanese people living in Hong Kong as they look to build their fan base after managing only three wins across their first two seasons in Super Rugby.

“We are excited to engage with Sunwolves’ fans in Hong Kong, which is home to one of the most populous rugby communities and one of the biggest Japanese communities in Asia,” said Yuji Watase, chief executive of the Japan Super Rugby Association.

Despite the Sunwolves struggles, Hongkongers can expect a tight clash between the improving Japanese side and last year’s quarter-finalists.

The Stormers won 44-31 in Singapore last year after the sides drew at the same venue the season prior.

“Our matches against the Sunwolves in Singapore have been tough encounters, so we know we are in for a real test once again,” Fleck said.

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“Our boys are really excited about having the opportunity to play in Hong Kong. There is a huge atmosphere there and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to be part of and now I get to do that by bringing the Stormers group over.”

Super Rugby has its first full round this weekend after only the South African conference played in the first round, with the Stormers opening their season with a 28-20 win over Argentina’s Jaguares.

Sanzaar chief executive Andy Marinos is confident the profile of rugby in Asia will be elevated further as Super Rugby enters “yet another new territory”, hoping the exercise will help to promote the tournament and the sport in China.

After hosting the Natixis Cup clash between Racing 92 and another South African Super Rugby side in the Sharks earlier this month, the Hong Kong Rugby Union expects both sides “to be well-received”.

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“With a global television audience for Super Rugby of nearly 50 million, we are delighted to be bringing another world-class rugby encounter to the city, especially one with such significant stakes, as both sides will be in mid-season form with much to play for,” said HKRU chief Robbie McRobbie.

“We are confident that fans will flock to the game and welcome the teams with the rugby hospitality that Hong Kong has become famous for.”