Wednesday, 10 September 2014 00:00
By Shamseer Jaleel
The Sri Lanka Sevens team, after being placed fourth in back-to-back competitions in Hong Kong and Malaysia, will be looking forward to a better performance at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
The minimum target would be a bronze medal. Sri Lanka will need to knockout one of the top teams in order to do claim this medal. The task will not be an easy one with Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong playing some top-class sevens rugby at present in the Asian sevens series. Sri Lanka ended number four in Malaysia and their performances were far better than the ones in Hong Kong in the first leg.
The Sri Lankans almost shocked tournament winners Hong Kong in the semi-finals when they were edged out 10-7 in a tense battle. Sri Lanka will face a major threat from South Korea, who has come out remarkably well in the Asian Series this year around.
Last year, at the Asian Games, Sri Lanka toppled the Koreans to book a third place berth, which also gave them a chance to play at the famous Hong Kong Rugby Sevens last March.
Rugby will be featured in Incheon, Korea along with both menâ€™s and womenâ€™s segments including six medals at the Namdong Asiad Rugby Field. The tournament, which will take place from 30 September to 2 October, will see Sri Lanka fielding only the menâ€™s team.
They will play Taipei on the opening day, followed by India and South Korea on the second day. From the group stages onwards, the ranking tournament will take place for the medals on the third and the final days.
Twelve menâ€™s rugby teams and 11 womenâ€™s teams will take part in the 2014 Incheon Games in South Korea. In 1998 and 2002 it was a fifteen-a-side tournament, with the initial one taking place in Bangkok. South Korea emerged Champions with Japan securing the second place. Taipei clinched the third place while Sri Lanka settled for the fourth position.
Four years later, in Busan, South Korea, it was a repeat of the 1998 results. In 2006, in Doha, Qatar, a shorter version of the game was introduced. Japan won the gold, South Korea won the silver and China claimed the bronze.
Four years later, in Guangzhou in China, Japan secured the rugby gold with Hong Kong claiming the silver. South Korea settled for the bronze.
Sri Lanka sevens skipper Fazil Marija stated soon after his arrival from the Malaysian Sevens: â€śWe will need to play top-class rugby, as we need to beat one of the top three teams (Hong Kong, South Korea or Japan) in order to win a medal. Itâ€™s within our reach and we need to take it game by game. We performed really well in Malaysia compared to the Hong Kong leg. We lost to Hong Kong by only one try. The difference in scoreline between Hong Kong and Japan was about 17 points. Had we downed the Hong Kong outfit we could have beaten the tired Japan outfit as well.
â€śWe have put in a brave effort and I am sure the boys will give their best shot in South Korea and China, to mark our presence not only in Asian rugby but also in world rugby. If we finish off the Asian series in the top three, we will get a chance to represent Sri Lanka in tier two at next yearâ€™s Hong Kong Sevens in March.â€ť
Fazil who had represented the country and his club Kandy SC, looks like he is on his last series tour of the sevens team before retiring from international rugby.
The Sri Lankan sevens team was announced two days back, with the only surprise package being Dinusha Chathuranga, who performed really well in Hong Kong and Malaysia, being omitted from the team, giving the chance to Sandun Herath, who hardly impressed at the first leg in Hong Kong. Nigel Ratwatte, Gayan Weeraratnea and Emori Waqavulagi made way for Richard Dharmapala, Shenal Dias and Mithun Hapugoda. The touring side will see half of the players from Havelocks Sports Club.
Touring squad â€“ Richard Dharmapala, Lavanga Perera, Anurudha Wilwara, Fazil Marija (Captain) (all from Kandy SC), Shenal Dias, Sudarshana Muthuthanthri, Shehan Pathirana, Sandun Herath, Danushka Ranjan and Mithun Hapugoda (all from Havelocks SC), Yoshitha Rajapaksa (Navy SC) and Srinath Sooriyabandara. Coach â€“ C. Setefano (Fiji); Manager â€“ Rohan Chinthaka; Physio â€“ Amith Jayasekera
Menâ€™s 2014 Asian Games rugby football
Pool A â€“ Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Repechage 2
Pool B â€“ Hong Kong, China, Philippines, Repechage 1
Pool C â€“ South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taipei, India
Repechage teams â€“ Pakistan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia
Womenâ€™s 2014 Asian Games rugby football
Pool A â€“ China, Hong Kong, Laos
Pool B â€“ Kazakhstan, Thailand, South Korea
Pool C â€“ Japan, Singapore, India and Uzbekistan