40 Years of the Hong Kong Sevens

SARS: Survival Apparel Rugby Style - how the Hong Kong Sevens defied a world crisis

IN PICTURES: 40 years of the Hong Kong Sevens - part 6 (2001-2005). Join us for an eight-part romp through the SCMP archives charting how the world-famous event became such a success

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 2015, 8:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 March, 2015, 11:14am

From humble beginnings in 1976, the Hong Kong Sevens has grown into the city's leading sports event, famed throughout the world. This year, as the tournament celebrates 40 years, we're taking a ride through the SCMP archives to see how the event became the jewel in the sevens crown. 

And if you see yourself or a friend in any of the pictures in our eight-part series, click here to enter your best memories of the Sevens and the most original/entertaining answers will win a pair of three-day tickets to this year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens from March 27-29.  

We begin part 6 in 2001Karl Te Nana was the star as New Zealand retained their title, beating - you guessed it - Fiji 29-5 to win for an eighth time. 

Fiji coach Tomasi Cama did the unthinkable and dropped his old teammate Waisale Serevi - it backfired badly as they missed their talisman. 

Hong Kong won another Bowl competition - with Ricky Cheuk Ming-yin becoming the first local Chinese player to score a try in the tournament. 

And the event was also notable for being the first sellout since the financial woes of 1997. Now of course, tickets are rarer than hen's teeth. 

 DON'T MISS: Part 1 of our look through the archives

In 2002 England won the competition for the first time ever, becoming only the fifth nation to have done so. 

Their inspiration in the rain was Ben Gollings, who would go on to be the Sevens World Series all-time top scorer, as they beat the fancied Fijians 33-20, to become only the second northern hemisphere side to win since the Barbarians in 1981.

Teenager James Simpson-Daniel scored a hat-trick in the final - he would go on to win 10 caps for the England XVs team.


DON'T MISS: Part 2 of our look through the archives

2003 saw the tournament threatened by what was then being called an "atypical pneumonia outbreak".

At that stage, 12 people had died as a result of what came to be known as Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome). 

The HKRFU and the IRB, on the advice of the government, chose to go ahead and more than 30,000 fans turned up on Sunday.

Many treated the threat with customary drunken disdain, most scorning the free face scarves that were handed out at the stadium - a "safety precaution" ridiculed by some medical experts. 

Though some even dressed up in hazmat suits and gas masks, most were confident the amount of alcohol they imbibed could kill off any infection.

"We are very pleased that the tournament went ahead successfully. The most important thing was that we gave the public the option of whether to come or not. The choice was left to the individual and I'm glad to say most people turned up," Hong Kong Rugby Football Union chairman John Molloy told the SCMP.

On the pitch, England retained their title, beating New Zealand 22-17. Substitute Richard Haughton sealed the win with two tries for England, who wanted to win for a late teammate, Nick Duncombe, who had died of meningitis.

DON'T MISS: Part 3 of our look through the archives

England made it a remarkable hat-trick in 2004, beating surprise finalists Argentina 22-12.

"I just love it - three times and not beaten yet," captain Simon Amor told the SCMP.

"Police reported no trouble - or streakers," said the report.

The hero of 2003, Richard Haughton, starred again, the speedster top-scoring with eight tries to win the MVP.

Perhaps the story of the tournament was centred on the Argentines, though, a bunch of amateurs who beat New Zealand on their way to the final.


DON'T MISS: Part 4 of our look through the archives

In 2005, the tournament saw the return of the Sevens World Cup, making Hong Kong the only city to have hosted the event twice.

Waisale Serevi, now a veteran, was back for Fiji, and sure enough, he led them to another World Cup win as they beat defending champions New Zealand 29-19 in a thriller.

"This is a big thing for Fiji as we're just a small nation," said 36-year-old Serevi, named player of the tournament and who also starred when the World Cup was last held in Hong Kong (1997) when Fiji also won. "They should hold the World Cup in Hong Kong every time."

DON'T MISS: Part 5 of our look through the archives

Roll of Honour:

1976 Cantabrians (New Zealand) 24 - Wallaroos (Australia) 8 

1977 Fiji 28 - Marlborough (New Zealand) 18

1978 Fiji 14 - Manawatu (New Zealand) 10

1979 Australia 39 - Western Samoa 3 

1980 Fiji 12 - Scottish Co-optimists 8

1981 Barbarians 12 - Australia 10

1982 Australia 18 - Scottish Border 14 

1983 Australia 14 - Fiji 4

1984 Fiji 26 - New Zealand 0

1985 Australia 24 - Public School Wanderers 10

1986 New Zealand 32 French Barbarians 12

1987 New Zealand 12 Fiji 6

1988 Australia 13 New Zealand 12

1989 New Zealand 22 Australia 10

1990 Fiji 22 New Zealand 10

1991 Fiji 18 New Zealand 14 

1992 Fiji 22 New Zealand 6

1993 Western Samoa 14 Fiji 12

1994 New Zealand 32 Australia 30

1995 New Zealand 35 Fiji 17

1996 New Zealand 19 Fiji 17

1997 Fiji 24 South Africa 15 (World Cup)

1998 Fiji 28 Samoa 19

1999 Fiji 21 New Zealand 12

2000 New Zealand 31 Fiji 5 

2001 New Zealand 29 Fiji 5

2002 England 33 Fiji 20

2003 England 22 New Zealand 17

2004 England 22 Argentina 12

2005 Fiji 29 New Zealand 19 (World Cup)

Don't forget to enter here if you see yourself or a friend in the first six of our eight-part photo series. 

Part 7 is on Monday.