Rugby: HSBC Singapore Sevens fever taking hold ahead of weekend's action

Welsh rugby player Sam Cross taking a wefie with boys from the Spartans Rugby Club at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel yesterday, ahead of this weekend's HSBC Singapore Sevens.
Welsh rugby player Sam Cross taking a wefie with boys from the Spartans Rugby Club at the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel yesterday, ahead of this weekend's HSBC Singapore Sevens. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Undeterred by delayed arrival of major stars, young rugby fans rewarded for their patience

They had come expecting to see the likes of All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams in the flesh.

So it was no surprise that some 60 boys from the Spartans Rugby Club were disappointed when news broke that Williams' New Zealand rugby sevens team would not show up as scheduled.

The All Blacks, along with Hong Kong Sevens champion Fiji, England and Scotland were due to arrive in Singapore at 7.10pm yesterday, ahead of this weekend's HSBC Singapore Sevens.

However, a medical emergency involving a passenger on board forced the aircraft to turn back to Hong Kong. The teams arrived later, close to midnight.

Any lingering disappointment soon dissipated as the players from the United States, Australia, Wales and South Africa streamed into the Pan Pacific Singapore hotel, to the boys' delight.

The players took the opportunity to autograph pieces of rugby apparel held out keenly by the thrilled boys.

American Nate Ebner, 27, was pleasantly surprised with the turnout at the hotel. He said: "It's pretty awesome, we haven't had the same reception anywhere else we've gone to.

"The guys love it, what a warm welcome."

Australian fly-half James Stannard, 33, brushed aside any worries of fatigue: "We've played enough footy to get over that sort of thing. There are a few fresh faces coming in too to regenerate us, so we'll be fine."

As the youngsters gradually left to prepare for school tomorrow, the remaining faithful were rewarded for their patience as the South Africans entered the building an hour later, amid chants of "SA boleh".

Despite having just touched down on Singapore soil, Blitzboks winger Seabelo Senatla, who leads the World Sevens series with 48 tries, was already raring to go on his first visit to Singapore.

The 23-year-old said: "We're going to sweat a little bit, but I'm looking forward to just stepping out there and playing in a new place."

Singapore American School student Mikey Mirabelli, 14, was ecstatic after having his shirt autographed by American players Perry Baker and Garrett Bender.

He said: "I've followed the US sevens and 15s rugby teams since I was eight...I hope they do really well in this tournament."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Sevens fever taking hold'. Print Edition | Subscribe