Ever since its inception in 1976 the Hong Kong Sevens has always held a special place. It is the cauldron, where the greats of the game have been exposed to World Rugby. So, with the 2017 tournament only one week away, Last Word On Rugby look to ‘mix together’ our Ultimate Dream Team.
Hong Kong Seven’s
The tournament continues to grow even after 40 years. Attracting more people to visit the So Kon Po Stadium and get a taste of the finest rugby sevens show on earth. From the range of teams in the early years, to establishing the World Series, to being the pinnacle event on the calendar.
It is the ‘Mecca of Sevens’ and over the years they have helped in unearthing some of the finest players who went on to become legends of the game. From Waisale Serevi to Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen to Ben Smith, John Jeffery to Jason Little, George Gregan to Julian Savea–and the list continues to grow.
One team though has made the Hong Kong Sevens (7’s) a home away from Home; the South Sea Islanders of Fiji are the darlings at Hong Kong. They have won a phenomenal 16 times in So Kon Po–including two Rugby Sevens World Cup in 1997 and 2005.
Fiji Sevens – The Ultimate Sevens Nation
Fijian players are the best exponents of the game; their free-flow brand of rugby makes them everyone’s second team. Playing with passion, they always execute well, along with some outrageous offloading skills that leaves commentators in awe, chasing new superlatives to describe them.
Fiji were the first team to win the event three-times-in-a-row. Popular nation New Zealand; who were ultimately their biggest rivals, and England followed suit and are always in the running. Samoa and Australia have also claimed wins, but the two Pacific neighbours are pure examples of the sevens game at it’s best.
Ironically, current series leaders South Africa has never won in the Chinese island city. However, they have unearthed many stars there like Breyton Paulse, Stephen Brink and Cecil Afrika, among others.
This writer has been blessed to witness many stars over the years play at Hong Kong, so when the Editors asked me to put a Dream Team together, it was a tough ask to be honest. There were many, many candidates to choose from. So, with respect to all the men who have run onto the field, here goes my Ultimate Dream Team from the past 42 years; one from Fiji against a World Seven’s side.
Fiji Ultimate Dream Team
- Mesake Rasari – arguably one the best props to play for Fiji. Instrumental in their three-peat from 1990 to 1992. Big, strong and ran like a back, scoring tries and outpacing wingers at will. They have unleashed many other good props; like Pio Tuwai and Semisi Naevo together with Semi Kunatani and Leone Nakarawa, but Rasari was exceptional.
- Vesito Rauluni – toughest hooker to play against, tough in defense, team player who was always in support when needed. Isake Katonibau and Jasa Veremalua can only come close to what Rauluni can do with his high work rate.
- Aminiasi Natuiyaga – the late Natuiyaga; like Rauluni, was fearless in defence. He takes the tight head prop role. Joost Van Der Westheizen can attest, as he took the full brunt of his prowess in that incredible IRB Sevens World Cup final of 1997. Natuiyaga was always a pleasure to watch, as he can run some good lines that always keeps the opposition guessing. Today, Viliame Satala and Sakeasi Vonolagi, along with Alivereti Dere, are the only ones that come near to his defensive prowess to date.
- William Ryder – takes the halfback role, with his twinkle toes and amazing standing start that leaves you biting the dust in the blink of an eye. He played a huge role in Fiji claiming their 2005 Sevens World Cup win. Ryder held the ability to create something out of nothing, his wicked step and speed was his biggest asset. Today, Jerry Tuwai, Jone Daunivucu, together with Samisoni Rabaka and Lemeki Koroi are too outstanding in that position.
- Waisale Serevi – he is the maestro, the best ever to play the game. His vision, knowledge and mastery of the game was second to none. Arguably the best playmaker, he took the game to the world [Serevi Rugby] and his peers like Eric Rush will testify to that. Men like Vatemo Ravouvou leads the current crop; that have won the Olympic Gold for Fiji, in mirroring the skills of Waisale.
- Noa Nadruku – to date, Fiji has never been able to find another rover like him with speed, power, agility and the ability to break defensive lines at will. Incredibly, he went on to win an NRL Premiership with Canberra Raiders in 1994. Nadruku played alongside the likes of Mal Meniga, Laurie Daly, Ricky Stuart and Rueben Wiki, but truly inspired his sevens team mates. Donasio Ratubuli is the only player to ever come close to him, even factoring that Fiji have Osea Kolinisau playing that role now.
- Marika Vunibaka – is still the best man to ever played wing for Fiji in sevens, even though there have been so many others. From Manasa Bari, to Fili Delasau, to Samisoni Viriviri….the list goes on. The former Crusaders Super Rugby rep was an elusive finisher on the rugby sevens field, especially with those long range runs from his own tryline. Tough in defence too, which made him stand out from the rest.
That is the seven that LWOR have chosen, which many might beg to differ. As the Sevens Series move closer to the 2017 Hong Kong event, look back and make up your Ultimate Dream Team, and reminisce.
World Rugby Ultimate Dream Team
Without the visiting sides, from all corners of the globe, the game and the reputation of Hong Kong, would never have spread so wide. From Papua New Guinea, France, Portugal and many others, the variety of International teams is a credit to the events history.
Playing for those sides, many names are unforgettable–and while LWOR could never include every man, this list compiled by Jovilisi Waqa, is a reflection on some of the most influential players.
- Jonah Lomu – no question about it, you would have him as one of your props. One of Sir Gordon Tietjens best ever finds, Lomu went on to become a XV’s legend. He would dance, as much as run ‘over’ opposition. He could also defend, and when fully fit, Lomu was a steamroller, and a first-pick for any Ultimate Dream Team list.
- Eric Rush – like Serevi, he epitomizes sevens rugby. Legend of the game; who played several All Blacks tests, which described his verstility. A rugged hooker, with speed to burn, aggressive in defense and enterprize–and his leadership skills, mean Rush is a complete sevens player.
- Isoa Damudamu – played for England, with Fijian origin. A brilliant ball player, with Owen Scrimegeour of New Zealand and Andre Venter of South Africa coming close to taking that position. This selection could include many class players, as well as star French player Terry Bouhraoua.
- Amasio Valence Raoma – played for New Zealand; with Fijian heritage and shares that natural flair with Tomasi Cama. An aggressive halfback, a real ‘thorn in the oppositions side’ when playing against the Fijians. In contention too, would be Simon Amor and Cama, who could have taken this position.
- Ben Gollings – the prolific goal kicker, master of the game and wonderful technician. He takes the crucial playmaker role in any World Rugby Ultimate Dream Team. Gollings incredible points scoring record still stands in the series today, which shows his influence at tournaments like Hong Kong.
- Christian Cullen – like Lomu, he came from nowhere to leave lasting memories at events like Hong Kong and Wellington. A great step and swerve, with real speed to burn defenders. Prolific try scorer, who went on to become an All Blacks legend. Men to challenge Cullen would include Andrew Amonde from Kenya.
- Santiago Gomez Cora – the Argentine player takes the wingers berth [only just] from Daisuke Ohata of Japan. Gomez Cora was a complete package, with speed in both attack and defense. Today, the one current flyer who might challenge the Los Pumas wing, would be Seabelo Senatla. Gomez Cora was always one of the finest ever finishers to have played the game, and today is the head coach of the 2016/17 Argentina side..
Every Fan Loves the Hong Kong Sevens
What is strongest about the Hong Kong round of the Sevens Series, is the fan enjoyment. From rugby purists, to the dress-up crowds in their costumes, the big crowd see’s people returning year-and-year-again.
— HSBC (@HSBC) March 31, 2017
Heading into the 2017 tournament, the main draw has been made. Four pools will see the best teams face-off, with supporting matches that will feature a wider group of teams meet in the Hong Kong event. And that is one of the reasons that Hong Kong will hold such a legendary status, on the World Rugby HSBC Sevens Series.
The 2017 Hong Kongs Sevens begins on April 7-9, at So Kon Po Stadium.
“Main photo credit”