A shiver of mini sharks raided a Samoa and Tonga Rugby Sevens team training session last Sunday – but don’t panic; no rugby players were harmed in the invasion.
Dozens of children from the Tuen Mun Sharks Rugby Club youth section, dressed up in shark outfits, chased the giant Polynesian rugby players around the sunny King George V School artificial pitch during the weekend session.
The Hong Kong Shark Foundation (HKSF) organised the event to raise awareness of the shark fin trade that continues in the city. The foundation specifically chose the teams from Samoa and Tonga – both located in the South Pacific, and home to a variety of sharks – to help promote shark conservation.
“Hong Kong is still at the top in the world’s shark finning industry. We want to raise people’s awareness [of the issue] so we can save and protect the world’s sharks,” said HKSF Executive Director Chow Yuen-ping.
Shark finning is still a serious problem in Hong Kong as restaurants continue to import the fins in order to make shark fin soup. Consuming the soup at banquets is still something that goes on because it’s a symbol of tradition and wealth, but the HKSF wants local audiences to start thinking of sustainability over culture.
The Samoan and Tongan players sidestepped the land sharks and ran in circles as their agility was put to the test by the energetic Tuen Mun minis. Afterwards, the professionals returned to training and drills in preparation for next week’s highly anticipated Hong Kong Sevens.
The players, coaches and HKSF representatives exchanged cuddly shark toys and signed rugby shirts after the games.
The legendary Sevens coach Sir Gordon Tietjens, who now coaches Samoa, spoke to Young Post about his team’s chances this year.
“We’ve come off the back of two tournaments, Las Vegas and Vancouver, and I feel that we’ve improved dramatically. I’m certainly looking for a big Hong Kong Sevens,” he said.
Tietjens is a familiar face in the Sevens world, having coached the New Zealand men’s team for a remarkable 22 years before joining Samoa late last year. “I’m coaching a new country, so the players are getting to know the coach and I’m getting to know the players. I’m starting to get that balance right,” he added.
Samoa were drawn into a tricky Pool A, alongside England, Australia and Korea – the big names don’t seem to faze the Sevens guru. “It’s always tough. It doesn’t matter which team you play now, [because] any team can beat any team. That’s our approach and we’ll be ready.”
Tietjens wants to encourage and cultivate more interest in the sport by young Hongkongers: “[The] Sevens is growing – it’s an Olympic sport now. We want all of these youngsters to look at our players and be inspired to also go to the Olympics.”