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Sanjay Nair
Saturday, Oct 11, 2014

Sports

Springboks covet Kallang

The Straits Times | Sanjay Nair | Saturday, Oct 11, 2014

(From left) Brett Gosper, CEO of the International Rugby Board (IRB), Bernard Lapasset, IRB chairman and Low Teo Ping, president of the Singapore Rugby Union inspect the National Stadium.

Richie McCaw and the All Blacks squaring off against arch-rivals Springboks in a competitive clash at the National Stadium in Kallang?

Rugby fans in Singapore have long dreamed of seeing the world's top two teams in action - and it could soon be a reality if South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins has his way.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the 55,000-seat facility yesterday, he openly declared his desire to bring his national team here to play in "matches that matter".

"Tell the people of Singapore that we want to come and play big games like the Rugby Championship, not just friendlies," said Hoskins who is also vice-president of the International Rugby Board (IRB).

"I've spoken to our players and they want to play in new territories - if we can find the right sponsors, the Springboks will be in Singapore. "The days of being confined to your own backyard are over; the All Blacks are playing in Chicago next month - this is the way forward for rugby."

Hoskins is among more than 60 top IRB delegates in town for its annual meeting, which ends tonight.

Breaking down borders ties in with the governing body's plans to tackle Asia, which include having one million new players across the continent by 2019 through mass-participation initiatives.

In that same year, Japan - who boast their own professional league - will be the first Asian country to host the prestigious 15s World Cup.

The build-up to the quadrennial showpiece will involve surrounding venues such as the National Stadium, which opened its doors by hosting the inaugural World Club 10s championship that featured eight teams in June.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Whether it's the Sevens World Series, Olympic qualifiers or World Cup warm-up games, there are many opportunities in the coming years for Singapore to be a major player in the rugby world.

"You have a great stadium in a fantastic city that already has a lot of big events - rugby should be a part of this too because it can draw big crowds."

The Republic is keen to embrace the game as part of its push to become a global sports hub.

The city is competing with Japan to host a Super Rugby franchise, with an announcement expected next month on who will be the first Asian entrant to the southern hemisphere's premier club competition.

Singapore hopes to stage a leg of the Sevens World Series from 2016 and the Sevens World Cup in 2018, building on its hosting of the inaugural SEA Games' rugby sevens tournament next June.

Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping said,

"All these big events are not just to sell tickets, but to get more youngsters hooked on playing rugby, which in turn will hopefully bolster our national team."

The Straits Times revealed yesterday that the British Lions are keen to play here, complementing the prospect of Springboks-All Blacks games.

IRB chief executive Brett Gosper said: "There is huge growth potential for our sport across Asia, especially in Singapore, where the schools game is thriving.

"To get more people watching rugby, we are considering buying out certain properties to put more top-level action on free-to-air television.

"The game is going global, we hope Singapore will join in the fun."


This article was first published on October 9, 2014.
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