In his latest column for irbsevens.com, South Africa head coach Paul Treu looks back to some of his memories from Hong Kong and talks about why he believes it to be the best Sevens tournament in the world…
There is no doubt. For me, Hong Kong is always going to be the biggest tournament in the world.
Obviously Dubai and Wellington are right up there but Hong Kong will always be regarded as, not the birth place because Scotland is the birth place of Sevens, but as the one tournament that everyone wants to play in and in my mind it is always going to stay there.
It is of course special for me now because I have been to Hong Kong so many times as a player and as a coach.
As a player the first memory I have is in my first tournament. I remember being unable to run, I was so nervous and I just couldn’t cope with the pressure.
But now in my seventh year as a coach, it is a bit different. It is difficult because with some of our new players like Paul Jordaan and Tshotsho Mbovane, I know it is the same feeling that they are going to feel when they run onto the park.
Vibrant Hong Kong
That makes me have a different kind of focus now. In my playing career, at that point in time you are just hoping you can make it as a player and the team do well.
Now you have to manage that team and the individual players too and there is a pressure to perform now that everyone is putting so much more energy, time and money into Sevens.
But for me as a player, and as a coach, what makes Hong Kong number one is the crowd, the vibe, the stadium and the city itself, which is just so vibrant.
Staying in the hotel with one of the most impressive skylines, it is one of the most impressive images you get. And for these young guys to experience it all, the atmosphere, the stadium and one of the best cities in the world, it is something to play for and something they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
It is also the only tournament where you can sing your national anthem if you make the final. We have experienced that three times now, twice for me as a coach and once as a player.
That gives players something else to play for, to sing the national anthem you would like to stand there and feel that with your teammates and that is something we would like to give the players this year as well.
(For more on Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Sevens, read our sister-website: Howzit-HongKong.com)
Legends are born
So many players have made their names here in Hong Kong. It is difficult to name a best player that I have played against because even at the time there were so many good players. Eric Rush, Karl Tenana and even Waisele Serevi, but there were many more quality quality players.
For me the New Zealand team have always been the standout players, however, especially the team in 2000/01 with Rush, Tenana, and Dallas Seymore. But over the years you get so many players that play in Hong Kong who become legends of the game.
I can think back to two years ago too when we had Mzwandile Stick, who went on to become one of the stars on the Series, and he made his name and started his career here.
Just think, Jonah Lomu started here, Christian Cullen started here, it is really a place where a player can launch his career and for the youngsters now, like Paul Jordaan and Tshotsho Mbovane this will be another opportunity to do that this year.
I am sure we will also see players from the other countries using this tournament as a stepping stone too.
The strategist… Paul Treu has been at the helm for 7 years (Pic: SA RugbyMag)
The Southern African Association of Hong Kong (SAAHK) hosted the Springboks at the annual Sevens Dinner on the Wednesday before the 2011 Tournament. BlitzBokke.com was there and captured the following moments: