Silverbacks fired up for historic Hong Kong tour

WHAT many thought impossible is already manifesting itself, the Silverbacks are heading for the Hong Kong rugby 10s.However, Gerald Nsenga says that even before logistics for the trip had been finalised, training started in earnest.

WHAT many thought impossible is already manifesting itself, the Silverbacks are heading for the Hong Kong rugby 10s.
However, Gerald Nsenga says that even before logistics for the trip had been finalised, training started in earnest.

“It’s always better to prepare well and hope all turns out well than being caught flatfooted,” Nsega who has been training the team for almost three months now, told Times Sport.

The 13-man squad, plus coach and manager, will make the long journey from East Africa this Saturday to play in the Kowloon RugbyFest, a 10-a-side tournament featuring teams from around the world.

The Silverbacks – named after Rwanda’s signature mountain gorillas – will also benefit from training sessions with elite coaches and go to watch the world famous Hong Kong Sevens in what promises to be the rugby trip of a lifetime.

 “The visit will be a real eye-opener for them and hopefully something that will encourage and inspire them for the rest of their lives,” says Hong Kong-born rugby enthusiast and Rwanda volunteer worker Dave Hughes, who initiated the project.

“On a more general level, we hope it will be a massive boost for rugby in Rwanda. The country has some naturally talented players and with the right coaching and support the sport could really take off in the same way that it has in Kenya and, to a lesser extent, Uganda.”

 “People have been very generous and without their help there is no way we could have made this happen,” says Hughes of the Hong Kong’s rugby community that embraced the project and offered help.

Kenyan Airways cut prices for the team and arranged for the squad to stay at the Scout Association of Hong Kong’s residential camp at Tai Tam.

Woodland Pre-Schools offered a free minibus for the team’s entire 11-day trip. Tsunami Sport designed and produced at minimal cost the team’s strip while the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has helped with logistics and has waived the cost of the team’s Sevens tickets.

In addition, HKRFU director of development Ruth Mitchell has organised a huge collection of second-hand kit and boots for the players to take back to Rwanda.

As for the rugby, the Silverbacks will benefit from training sessions with some of the sport’s top coaches, with two of the best teams taking part in another Festival of Rugby event – the elite-level Hong Kong Football Club Tens – agreeing to help.

Defending Tens champions Aliens from New Zealand will conduct a joint training session with the Rwandans soon after they arrive.

And Penguin International RFC, the famous UK-based touring team, will supervise a training session and also put each player through a grassroots coaching course so they can teach the basics of the game back home.

The Silverbacks have been practising hard for their Hong Kong adventure. “They’ve been training six days a week,” reveals Hughes. “They’re very proud to be representing Rwanda.”

“The players are looking good, the spirits are high and they can now read each others’ game,” Nsenga concludes.
It has been a long time coming, but the Silverbacks are ready to roar in Hong Kong.

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