HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens 2018

Rugby: Not just any game under the iconic National Stadium dome

Ready to roll out! Catch The Transformers and other Hasbro stars at the HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s this weekend at the Singapore Sports Hub. The tournament is not only ruck and maul on the pitch but fun and games off it as well.
Ready to roll out! Catch The Transformers and other Hasbro stars at the HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s this weekend at the Singapore Sports Hub. The tournament is not only ruck and maul on the pitch but fun and games off it as well.PHOTO: THE SINGAPORE SPORTS HUB

Schools final all about handling nerves and taking in experience

The world's best ruggers like Tim Mikkelson and Jerry Tuwai will grace the National Stadium pitch this weekend for the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens.

But while the star names will light the pitch up, so too will the fierce rivalry between old rivals Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) and St Andrew's Secondary School.

The pair will clash in the final of the Under-14 Singapore Schools Sevens Series, and the mental game - more than fitness and ball-handling - could decide the match.

The National Stadium is expected to welcome more than 52,000 fans over the weekend and its unique domed roof will amplify the event's raucous, rocking, rollicking atmosphere. Even though they will spend a mere 15 minutes on the pitch, the environment is a stark contrast to the usual schools final, which attracts about 3,000 and is played in far quieter circumstances.

"For these U-14 boys, it will be the biggest match ever. Mental preparation is very important in sport and even more so in an atmosphere like what we are expecting on Sunday," said Sidney Kumar, the Saints' rugby teacher in charge.

"I've had a bit of a chat with the boys, and I don't want them to overthink the whole experience. I've encouraged them to pop by the National Stadium on Saturday, to see what the environment is like, and how the pros warm up and prepare for their games," added Kumar, a former national player.

He has first-hand experience, after turning out for the Republic's men's A team at the South-east Asia sevens tournament played alongside the last edition of the HSBC Singapore Sevens. It is an experience - especially the 19-7 win over Malaysia - that still counts among his best rugby memories.

A TRULY BIG DAY

This is something that the boys will never forget. It's not every day that you get a chance to play at a stadium like this, and we're going to have a crowd there too.

ADRIAN CHONG, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) coach.

A SPECIAL OCCASION

The exposure of watching world-class sevens live is something that cannot be replicated. Physically we're not pushing them too hard, we want them to enjoy the experience. It's only about 15 minutes, but seriously valuable experience.

SIDNEY KUMAR, St Andrew's Secondary School teacher in charge of rugby.

The Saints were comfortably beaten by ACS (I) (26-1 and 31-7) in both rounds of the series - played on March 17 and April 7 - but revenge is not high on the agenda.

"The boys have nothing to lose. It's not just about winning the trophy, but about the whole experience. We want to see the boys execute what they have done in training, learn as much as they can in those 15 minutes - and also enjoy themselves," said Kumar.

The ACS (I) approach is similar.

"We played each other in the final of both of the series, and we managed to win those games. Hopefully it gives them more confidence in this match, but the big crowd at the stadium will just mean that this will be a totally different game," said coach Adrian Chong.

"We've prepared them to help make sure that they don't get fazed, but let's not forget that they are only 13-and 14-year-old boys.

"I'd like to see them focus on the rugby, have a good run-out. Obviously no one wants to lose, but I'd like to see them just focus on what they are capable of, and enjoy the whole experience."


FRINGE ACTIVITIES AT SINGAPORE SEVENS

• Transformers, My Little Pony and Nerf immersive zones are part of the FunZone around the National Stadium

• Music acts including Village People and Jack & Rai and Jive Talkin'

• Titans Ruck & Rumble 10s tournament

• Music After 7s (Clarke Quay Fountain Square)

• Regional Midnight Club 10s tournament (from Friday evening to early Saturday morning)

• Under-14 Singapore Schools Sevens Series final

TICKET DETAILS

Premium adult: $220

Category 1 adult: $150

Category 2 adult: $50

Family package (two adults, two youth)

Category 1: $320

Category 2: $120

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2018, with the headline 'Not just any game under the dome'. Print Edition | Subscribe