Rugby: S-E Asia Final is the end goal

SRU president Low Teo Ping presenting the new jersey to national women's rugby sevens captain Alvinia Ow Yong. The national teams want to go one better at this year's SEA 7s tournament.
SRU president Low Teo Ping presenting the new jersey to national women's rugby sevens captain Alvinia Ow Yong. The national teams want to go one better at this year's SEA 7s tournament.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Both national teams are using tournament as warm up for the SEA games in August

Singapore's rugby sevens players are aiming to reach the final of the South-east Asia (SEA) 7s tournament, as part of their preparations for the August SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

The men's and women's teams both lost to Thailand at last year's SEA 7s finals at the National Stadium.

The line-up for the April 14-15 SEA 7s competition was announced at Nex shopping mall yesterday. The players also received their national jerseys, sponsored by UK sportswear brand Samurai Sportswear.

Singapore will be represented by two teams in the men's tournament and one team in the women's event.

Eight teams, including Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, will take part in the men's competition.

The women's competition will feature Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

This year's SEA 7s finals will take place on April 15, which is the opening day of the HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens.

Men's captain Marah Ishraf believes the SEA 7s tournament will be a "good prelude" to the upcoming SEA Games, revealing that the team is aiming to improve on their bronze medal at the 2015 Games.

Reflecting on his past experience, the 22-year-old added that he hopes this year's squad will have the same camaraderie as the 2015 SEA Games side.

He told The Sunday Times: "It felt like we were more than just team-mates - we were a family,

"The SEA 7s will be a good opportunity for us to gel and play with one another so that we'll be prepared and ready to go for the SEA Games."

Of the 25 players in this year's men's training squad, only six (Marah, Ho Yi Shu, Samuel Teo, Naresh Kunasegaran, Zaki Mahmood and Nicholas Yau) featured at the previous Games.

Similarly, only five (captain Alvinia Ow Yong, Samantha Teo, Wong Yilin, Chan Jia Yu and Christabelle Lim) from the 24-strong women's training squad were part of the 2015 SEA Games line-up.

Said Ow Yong, 29: "Our team is shaping up really well; we have some of the older players back from injury and we have new players coming in to bring fresh input.

"Our target for both (the SEA 7s and SEA Games) is to reach the finals... we're ready to be at our best and play our best when called upon."

The Singapore women were silver medallists at the last SEA Games, losing to Thailand in the final.

Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) general manager George Danapal believes that while the Thai women's team have an edge over their local counterparts, the gap is closing.

He added: "We need to try and start our women's rugby programme a bit younger and we need to try and overcome that stigma of contact rugby for women."

Entry to the first day of the SEA 7s tournament at Yio Chu Kang Stadium is free, while both finals at the National Stadium will require a valid HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens ticket for entry.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 12, 2017, with the headline 'S-E Asia Final is the end goal'. Print Edition | Subscribe