Rugby: Tie-up with Fijian Airways a boon for Singapore rugby

(From left) Rugby Singapore chairman Low Teo Ping, Fiji Attorney-General and minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Enterprise Sports Group CEO Terence Khoo after the sponsorship signing.
(From left) Rugby Singapore chairman Low Teo Ping, Fiji Attorney-General and minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Enterprise Sports Group CEO Terence Khoo after the sponsorship signing. PHOTO: LIM YONG TECK FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

They are famed for their distinctive brand of quick-passing rugby and, come April, Singapore will be able to tap into the best that Fiji has to offer.

The Fijian national sevens team, who are also the defending champions of the HSBC World Sevens Series, will conduct coaching clinics over two days with the Republic's senior and junior national squads.

This is part of the three-year cash-and-kind partnership announced yesterday that sees Fiji Airways come on board as the official airline for the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens.

Led by stars Savenaca Rawaca and Semi Kunatani, the Fijians are joint-top with New Zealand and South Africa in the current season with the Las Vegas stop - the fifth stage - next from March 4-6.

The Singapore stop is the eighth of the 10-legged, eight-month competition.

Said Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) president Low Teo Ping: "The Fiji sevens team will extend their stay here for a few days and spend that time working with our local players.

"There will also be opportunities for our team to go to Fiji, to train and to develop."

The April 16-17 leg will be held at the National Stadium, less than two weeks after Fiji Airways launches a direct flight between both countries on April 5.

Over 200 Fijians have already booked their flights to attend the Singapore leg and it would not be a surprise to see close to 1,000 Fijians arrive for that weekend, including the country's Prime Minister, said Mr Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji's Attorney-General and Minister for Finance, Civil Aviation, Public Enterprises, Civil Service and Communications.

He added: "We will discuss with the SRU to see how we can look at opportunities to collaborate on the sporting level. Perhaps we can see Fijians play in Singapore clubs to help raise the standard of rugby here too."

Rugby Singapore, the SRU's commercial and events arm and organisers of the Singapore Sevens, remains confident of meeting its target of daily crowds of 26,000.

Ticket sales have been encouraging, said Low, with expatriates expected to comprise 30 per cent of the numbers.

He added: "We have arrangements with the different chambers of commerce, the embassies. We're going to get the Americans, Australians, Canadians, Japanese to come cheer their own teams."

A total of 16 nations, including wildcard entrant Japan as the only Asian side, will feature at the 55,000-seater Sports Hub.

Two-day adult passes are priced at $100 (free seating) and $120 (assigned seating). For youngsters aged between 12 and 18, tickets cost up to $60, while children below the age of 12 will be charged $2 each.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Tie-up with Fijian Airways a boon for S'pore rugby'. Print Edition | Subscribe