We want a Hong Kong player in our Super Rugby side, say Waikato Chiefs
Top New Zealand outfit see alliance with HKRU as springboard to
international club competition for city’s players
The Hong Kong Rugby Union’s partnership with the Chiefs could eventually see a Hong Kong player step out in Super Rugby, says the New Zealand club’s high-performance manager Chris Tindall.
The Chiefs development squad are in town this week for their annual tour and, while the four Chiefs players that have relocated to Hong Kong won’t become eligible to represent the territory until next year, Tindall is bullish about what lies ahead.
Josh Dowsing, Nate de Thierry, Turoa Stephens and Tau Koloamatangi have spent two seasons in the Hong Kong Premiership and Tindall believes they – or other Hong Kong representatives – could use the national stage as a springboard to Super Rugby.
“It’s quite possible and it’s part of the vision for the partnership to have a Hong Kong-connected player play for the Chiefs,” he said.
“There is real progression [in Hong Kong rugby] and we have seen that on the field, particularly in the last two years. We are trying to help Hong Kong get ready for their big [World Cup qualifiers] coming up.”
It’s not only Hong Kong who are benefiting from the partnership and Tindall will be watching with interest when the Sunwolves take on the Stormers at Mong Kok Stadium next month.
“It’s a huge development opportunity for us in terms of our young men that we bring on this tour. For many it’s their first full-time rugby experience,” he said.
“It’s exciting to see a Super Rugby game coming to Hong Kong this year, hopefully that will spark motivation for another game and we would love for the Chiefs to play in Hong Kong.
“We have talked about it as a vision, we would need some support and if the game this year can go well then we will be keen to get on the back of that.”
Chiefs’ scrum half Brad Weber was this week one of the first players to speak out against Israel Folau’s Instagram comment that God’s plan for gay people was “Hell, unless they repent of their sins and turn to God” and the Chiefs will be doing their best to promote inclusion while in Hong Kong.
“Part of New Zealand rugby, there has been a really positive push around inclusion and respect and we have reinforced that in our comments,” Tindall said, adding the Chiefs will be doing a number of kids coaching clinics while in Hong Kong.
Kinda sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff. I can't stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he's saying
— Brad Weber (@brad_weber9) April 17, 2018
“New Zealand rugby is committed to being progressive and inclusive – it’s a game for all people. When we go anywhere, and particularly Hong Kong, we want to be community engaged.”
Hong Kong and the Chiefs have been training together throughout the week and play a match at the Hong Kong Football Club on Saturday, with the week playing a crucial part in the host’s preparation for next month’s Asia Rugby Championship.
The ARC also features South Korea and Malaysia and is the first stage of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Japan, with the winner taking on the Cook Islands for the right to play in a four-team repechage, of which the victor proceeds to the World Cup.