To play for your country, you need to be talented, but to captain the team you need to be a star. Mark Coebergh is one of Hong Kong’s most well-known rugby players, thanks in part to when he led Hong Kong to victory over Thailand in the Asian Schools Rugby Sevens Championship final in July.
Like most strong leaders, the YMCA of HK Christian College alumni is unflappable and logical in the face of challenges, stating that the team succeeded because they “stuck to our structure and executed our skills well.” His road to sporting stardom began just eight years ago when his father suggested he join a rugby training session. Coebergh has loved the sport ever since.
Just weeks after the Schools win, the 18-year-old scrum-half played in the Asia Rugby U20 Sevens series. Hong Kong had suffered a disappointing first round in Malaysia in July, when the team finished in fifth place, but was buoyed with hometown confidence when the tournament was held in Hong Kong in mid-August. “I was amazed by how welcoming it felt playing at home,” Coebergh reflects. “I was surprised at how the level of rugby in Asia is growing.”
Rather than lose his focus trying to pick out friends and family members in the crowd, Coebergh got to work starving Sri Lanka of the ball and delivering a play described by sports journalists as “immaculate” and “superb” by coach Fan Shun-kei.
Hong Kong hit a 19-0 half-time lead, and beat down successive attempts to put up a fight by their opponents. Despite the Hong Kong defeat, Sri Lanka won the series. But Coebergh had made a name for himself on an international stage.
Like all students, the CityU sportsman grapples with procrastination sometimes.
“It’s a challenge to be consistent in my performance in sport and my academic performance. It’s very tempting to procrastinate and have an off-day from time to time.”
The first year of university is pivotal, and Coebergh will be knuckling down not only in his studies but on the pitch. He hopes to play professionally for the senior men’s team, with the Olympics or world series circuit the ultimate goals. Outside of Asia, he is looking forward to getting to play in countries where rugby is particularly popular – like Australia, New Zealand, Britain or France.
To achieve his dreams, Coebergh will be watching closely the career of All Blacks player Aaron Smith, and trying to follow his playing style. “My favourite thing about rugby is the character it builds,” he says.
What song/movie title best describes you when you’re playing your sport?
Don’t Let Me Get In My Zone – by Kanye West.
You can take the abilities of any animal during one competition. Which do you choose and why?
A cheetah’s speed – life on the field would be amazing.
What’s your favourite thing to eat before a big event?
Home-made dishes, like pasta made by my mum.