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Hong Kong Rugby Union

Tsunami cups of kava and a healthy dose of perspective for Hong Kong players in ‘incredible’ visit to remote Fijian village

Chris Maize feels the joy of giving back and the women’s team produce a stunning run to the final at the Coral Coast Sevens

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 5:52pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 9:57pm

They were stretched to their limits on the field at the Fiji Coral Coast Sevens on Friday but it is a trip to a remote village that is likely to have a longer lasting effect on Hong Kong’s players.

Chris Maize, in particular, felt the impact of Thursday’s jet boat ride to Nalebaleba in the interior of Fiji’s main island, getting a first-hand insight into something his dad has dedicated his life to.

“He works for the International China Concern charity. They look after orphans and people with disabilities in China,” Maize said.

“Yesterday was very cool. They introduced us to their way of life and the village scene, it’s pretty humbling to be honest.

“You show up there and they are so happy. My father has told me about it, how basically they will give you everything they have.

“It definitely opened my eyes to giving back and why my father does it. It’s very rewarding to bring happiness to people and help them out.”

Hong Kong gave team jerseys, shorts, boots and rugby balls to the villagers – who travelled down to watch them play on Friday – and donated money.

“They said that it’s FJD$4 [HK$15] to run their electricity for a week and I reckon we all had at least $40 in our pockets, we wished we could have given more,” Maize said.

“They are just so happy with so little and then we go back to the hotel and we don’t have any Wi-fi and we kick off.

“For Hong Kong kids it’s pretty eye opening, the level of happiness they have for how little they have is incredible.”

Scrum half Jason Jeyam was another who loved the experience, diving head first into Fijian customs.

“We went through a welcoming ceremony, did the kava [a local herbal relaxant], we had to have a chief out of all the guests and he was speaking on our behalf and they had a spokesperson who translated for us,” he said.

“All the boys who play rugby in the village said drinking kava is what they do the night before a game, it relaxes them apparently.

“Most of us only had one cup but some of the boys who were pretty keen joined them for what they called the tsunami cups.”

Hong Kong were competitive throughout but failed to register a win in Friday’s pool play, losing 22-10 to Ratu Filise, 21-14 to Tovolea and 19-12 to a McDonald’s Saunaka team featuring three Olympic gold medallists.

Hong Kong’s women had a brilliant day, winning through to the final on the back of a 12-10 win over Fijiana Makasoi in the quarter-finals and a thrilling 19-17 semi-final victory over Stars USA.

Hong Kong’s Chong Shun-hong soaks up Fiji’s famed sevens culture in ‘Rugby Town’

Chong Ka-yan was the match-winner for Hong Kong in the semis, conjuring a clutch try before Lee Tsz-ting converted to send her side to the final.

They fell 19-12 to local team Striders in the final, with Chong and Nam Ka-man crossing, however coach Kevin West was delighted to see his team grow throughout the tournament.

“We have progressed all the way through. We lost the first game, which I thought we could have won, and we have shown a pretty good degree of resilience,” he said.

“We didn’t have a lot of expectation. We had to see how the girls would react against who are bigger, physical teams and we really struggled in that first game but we adapted really well and we started to find what really suited us.

‘We think we’re going to drown’: treacherous 14-hour ferry ride a small price to pay for a game of rugby in Fiji

“That degree of resilience, to be honest, we haven’t always shown so we’re delighted with that.”

Hong Kong’s men play in the bowl quarter-finals as the tournament comes to a close on Saturday.