Makombe hails ‘valuable learning experience’

National rugby team captain Benjamin Makombe is happy for “the positives” gained from the team’s maiden appearance in this year’s Hong Kong 10s international tournament.
Rwanda played against BGC APB All Stars on Day 1 of the GFI HKFC Tens 2013 at the Hong Kong Football Club, Hong Kong. Net photo.
Rwanda played against BGC APB All Stars on Day 1 of the GFI HKFC Tens 2013 at the Hong Kong Football Club, Hong Kong. Net photo.

National rugby team captain Benjamin Makombe is happy for “the positives” gained from the team’s maiden appearance in this year’s Hong Kong 10s international tournament.

The Silverbacks endured a tough debut in the tournament at Hong Kong Football Club, failing to win any of their five matches but Makombe insists it was a valuable learning experience.

“It was a great tournament full of fantastic players so, for us, it was very tough,” he said. “Everything was a big step up for us – from the rucks and mauls to the pace of the games and the fitness required to compete at this level. We ran more in those two days than we’ve ever done before.”

He added: “We will be better for this experience. We really enjoyed the 10s, it was a pleasure to be invited to take part and it was fantastic that we scored two tries on the first day. But we are not going to sleep. We are going to work even harder so that we can step up to the next level if we are invited to play next year.”

The Silverbacks ran out of steam on the second day of the Tens with a 26-0 defeat to A-Trade Overseas Old Boys in the Bowl quarter-finals followed by a 41-0 reverse to Lloyd’s in the Shield semi-finals.

But the highlight of their tournament came in the pool stages in the group matches when scrum-half Moise Habumugisha and centre Allan Otim scored superb tries in a 31-12 defeat at the hands of Borelli Walsh Australian Country.

Makombe said the players were hugely grateful to coach Frank Hadden for guiding them to the Tens.

The former Scotland coach, assisted by his old friend Julian Vaughan, took charge of the team this week, supervising training sessions and then coaching them through the tournament.

“It was incredible for us to have Frank in charge,” said Makombe. “He has been fantastic for us and we have learnt so much. All the players are very appreciative of what he and Julian have done for the Rwanda team.”

Hadden was clear about what is needed for Rwanda to become more competitive in tournaments such as the Tens, where the elite teams feature professional players with Rugby World Cup and Super Rugby experience.

“As individuals, they can work on their skills and they can look to get fitter and stronger but, ultimately, the standard of competition in Rwanda needs to improve.

“The game needs to grow so that when they come to a tournament like this, the gulf between what they are used to at home and what they face here is not so big,” added Hadden.

HSBC Penguins won the tournament for the first time, defeating ULR Samurai International 21-14 in the Cup final.

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