Schools balk at sports hub game

The Sunwolves (in red) made their National Stadium debut against the Cheetahs in the Super Rugby clash on March 12. Despite the Singapore Rugby Union's invitation to play the Schools National A Division final as a curtain-raiser to the Sunwolves' nex
The Sunwolves (in red) made their National Stadium debut against the Cheetahs in the Super Rugby clash on March 12. Despite the Singapore Rugby Union's invitation to play the Schools National A Division final as a curtain-raiser to the Sunwolves' next game on May 14, this will not take place.PHOTO: REUTERS

National rugby convener declines chance to play A Division final before Sunwolves game

The A Division school rugby players will not get the chance to share the same stage as Super Rugby professionals at the National Stadium this year.

The Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) had invited the Schools National rugby organising committee to stage the Schools National A Division final on May 14 as a curtain-raiser to the Super Rugby clash between the Sunwolves and the Stormers.

But the Schools National rugby convener turned down the invitation, citing the unpredictability of the weather which might lead to the matches not being completed by May 14.

The final is scheduled to take place on May 19.

Lucy Toh, principal of St Andrew's Secondary School, the national convener, explained: "We regret that the unpredictability of the weather, which has often led to match postponements in the past, makes it unwise for us to make such a big commitment to holding the A Division final as the opener for the prestigious international rugby event."

It is common for schools rugby matches to be postponed. For instance, the B Division semi-final between St Andrew's and Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) was moved from Monday to Tuesday due to inclement weather. Another match between Regent Secondary and Greenridge Secondary was also postponed to next Monday.

PUZZLED BY THE REFUSAL

We thought a curtain-raiser could involve the A Division boys' final, since the timing was suitable. We've spoken to a lot of players, including schoolboys, and they're all thrilled by the idea. It's a pity.

LOW TEO PING, Singapore Rugby Union president, on the declined proposal to hold the Schools National A Division rugby final as a curtain-raiser to the final Sunwolves match at the Sports Hub on May 14.

Typically, a reserve date is set aside as a buffer for every two matches.

SRU general manager George Danapal, who used to be in the Schools National rugby organising committee, noted: "There were instances in the past when we have not utilised any reserve dates, but there were also times we needed to find more reserve dates.

"So it's hard to predict what will happen and you never know whether the schedule will go according to plan."

The A Division tournament this year also faces a tight schedule with more matches being played in the preliminary round due to a different competition format.

With Pioneer Junior College not fielding a team, the seven remaining schools will not be split into two groups as in previous years, which means they will face every other team in a round-robin format.

Said Danapal: "They've got more games now and they're concerned they (won't be able to) finish all the preliminary and semi-final matches in time for May 14."

He also explained that there are logistical considerations involved. He said: "There are quite a number of factors that come into play, including the availability of venues and referees. It can be worked out but it's up to the organisers."

With the rugby season in full swing at Kallang, where Singapore will host three Super Rugby matches and the April 16-17 HSBC World Rugby Singapore Sevens, some are lamenting the missed opportunity for the students to battle it out on the grand stage that is the 55,000-seat National Stadium.

Said Roy Woo, a Year 6 student at Anglo-Chinese School (Independent): "It's not like every batch gets to play at the National Stadium. If we don't take it, I think (the opportunity) might be lost for future batches. It's my last season and it's a pity I cannot get to end it at a grand venue."

Added SRU president Low Teo Ping: "We're taking advantage of all the rugby that's taking place here, to give the youths and all Singaporeans a chance to play at the National Stadium.

"We thought a curtain-raiser could involve the A Division boys' final, since the timing was suitable. We've spoken to a lot of players, including schoolboys, and they're all thrilled by the idea. It's a pity."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2016, with the headline 'SCHOOLS BALK AT SPORTS HUB GAME'. Print Edition | Subscribe