The South China Tigers are set for a historic first home match at Aberdeen Sports Ground on Sunday when they take on Singapore’s Asia Pacific Dragons.
The Dragons squad features 11 internationals, largely drawn from the Pacific Island nations with a sprinkling of Australian 7s players and ex-Super Rugby stars, fell to a 42-10 defeat in its first Global Rapid Rugby outing against the Western Force in Perth last weekend.
The Tigers lost their opener against the Force, 45-22, leaving this weekend’s tie a must-win for coach Craig Hammond’s side if they hope to claim the Asian Showcase Series crown and AUD$25,000 prize purse for the champions.
“It’s a must win, otherwise we go to Singapore where it will be tough to play them, and the we have the Force. So Sunday is both a massive challenge and opportunity,” said Hammond.
The final four matches of the regional showcase are in Asia with Tigers hosting the Dragons this Sunday before a return leg next weekend in Singapore. Rapid Rugby action returns to Hong Kong on 12 May for the seres finale versus the Force at Aberdeen Sports Ground.
“With one game beneath our belt, the South China Tigers look to be one of the most competitive and exciting teams in this new competition,” shares Pieter Schats, Chairman of Hong Kong Rugby Union.
The Force with a perfect 2-0 record and a clean haul of the double bonus points available in every match, are on top of the table with 12 points, leaving the Tigers needing to sweep the Dragons to stay in contention ahead of the Force’s inaugural visit to Hong Kong next month.
Preparing for only their second outing under the new laws introduced by Global Rapid Rugby, the Tigers sights are set more narrowly on this weekend’s clash, which is expected to be highly physical.
“The whole team, their subs, everyone, they are big fellas, which is a different challenge to what we have played against. They have a lot of international players and a lot of older guys that have played a lot of high-level footy.”
The Tigers have responded in kind, opting for a heavy line-up with towering lock Craig Lodge coming into the squad along with No.8 Luke van der Smit, one of the form players in the Hong Kong Premiership. Hammond has also welcomed the return of Hong Kong prop Ben Higgins from a pernicious niggle that has sidelined him since November.
“Our challenge is to live with their physicality and at the same time do what we need to do. We pride ourselves on our work rate and our capacity for work and we have to make sure we can maintain that intensity for 70 minutes.”
Hammond, manager Andrew Hall and positional coach Brett Wilkinson have been working hard with the forwards this week to prepare for what is shaping up to be a titanic battle on Easter Sunday.
The Force’s pack gave the Tigers more than they bargained for in the opener and the scrum will be another key contest against the Dragons.
“They more than held their own versus Western Force in the scrum. Their guys are probably bigger than the Force, and the Force are big already. We have to get our set piece right, that has been a massive focus for us this week,” Hammond noted.
“Training has been a lot more physical this week, and the guys have been up for it and are looking forward to Sunday. These are the kind of games we want, to prepare ourselves for going forward as a franchise,” Hammond concluded.
Asia Showcase Series
South China Tigers v Asia Pacific Dragons
Sunday, 21 April 2019
Aberdeen Sports Ground, Hong Kong
Family entertainment starts 12.30pm local, kick-off 3.10pm
Broadcasting information by region available here
Tickets available here.
Starting XV: 1.Benjamin HIGGINS, 2.Alexander POST, 3.Tau KOLOMATANGI, 4.Fin FIELD, 5.Craig LODGE, 6.James SAWYER, 7.Josh DOWSING, 8.Luke VAN DER SMIT, 9.Liam SLATEM(c), 10.Glyn HUGHES, 11.Tom VARNDELL, 12.Matthew ROSSLEE, 13.Lewis WARNER, 14.Samisoni NASAGAVESI, 15.Nathan DE THIERRY,
Reserves: 16.Mitch ANDREWS, 17.Adam FULLGRABE, 18.Grant KEMP, 19.Kyle SULLIVAN, 20.James CUNNINGHAM, 21.Jamie LAUDER, 22.Tom HILL, 23.Ma CHONG
Starting XV: 1.Latu TALAKAI, 2.Michael LEA, 3.Ropate RINAKAMA, 4.Louis CONRADIE, 5.Joketani KOROI, 6.Naulia DAWAI, 7.Fotu LOKOTUI, 8.Nili LATU, 9.Leon FUKOFUKA, 10.Kali HALA, 11.Mitchell SCOTT, 12.Latiume FOSITA, 13.Stacy ILLI (c), 14.Sireli BOBO, 15.Asaeli TIKOIROTUMA,
Reserves: 16.Sekonaia POLE, 17.Taniela KOROI, 18.Haamea AHIO, 19.Mike McKEE, 20.Declan MARTENS, 21.Rowan GOUWS, 22.Naibuka ROKUA, 23.Junior LALOIFI
Referee: Graham COOPER, AR1: Matthew RODDEN, AR2: Tim BAKER, TMO: Mark JACKSON