Australia’s Rugby Sevens players are definitely looking forward to the Singapore leg of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens this weekend… and playing at the iconic National Stadium, which they have heard so much about.
Said Second-Row player Frank Winterstein, 29, “We have heard that the Singapore national Stadium has a roof and that it is quite new and state-of-the-art. We are looking forward to seeing it sometime this week before we run out on Saturday to play.”Added Centre and Winger Stephan van der Walt, 24, “I’m not sure what to expect for this weekend in terms of the rugby action but I am definitely excited to play in an indoor stadium – though we also had an indoor stadium in Vancouver, that was a synthetic field, but this (Singapore) one has real grass.”
Continued van der Walt, “I have also heard about the Singapore National Stadium being air-conditioned for the audience… and we hope that it is also air-conditioned for the players, as that will really help with the Singapore humidity.”
Winterstein added, “Yeah it is definitely very humid in Singapore but then again, playing in and adapting to different climates is all part and parcel of rugby. We will do what we have to do. But the ball will definitely be very slippery with sweat though – so we will have to watch our ball handling even more carefully this weekend.”
The players had been speaking on the sidelines of the “Laksa Making Challenge” which had been organised by Qantas and held at Lau Pa Sat yesterday. The challenge had featured Winterstein, van der Walt, Cameron Clark and Sam Myers, who had pitted their Laksa cooking skills against each other.
Hoping to clinch the Singapore title
The Thunderbolts are taking the Singapore leg of the Sevens quite seriously, with the hopes of finally clinching the trophy this time around, after having had several close calls.
Said Clark, 23, who plays at Back, “I guess there are sore and tired bodies walking around now, but this is no different to any other team in the series. Everyone had to do it last week and again this week, so to us, this is another opportunity to get that Cup win. We have made the Cup semis at least in the last four tournaments so we would like to stay at the upper end of the table and hopefully put in some good performances.”
He added, “In HongKong we were talking about doing the simple things right and getting our basic fundamentals correct like our ball carries and holding on to possession and that sort of thing – these let us down and to win these tournaments, you need to be performing over six games and cannot afford to let anything slip. So it will be about building consistency over the weekend and that is something that we hope to do in Singapore.”
Tough competition from their rivals
And his team mate van der Walt admits that there will be some tough competition ahead. He said “The series so far has been more competitive than in previous years and it has been very hard to get out of the pool this year. And with everyone pretty excited about the Olympics at the end of the year, there has been a lot of players coming into the Sevens circuit which makes it tough. But that is what we enjoy – this battle and the competition so it has been really good.”
He added, “Of course the main threats come from Fiji and South Africa, and of course New Zealand, which is like a brother country to us and a tough, but friendly rivalry. The leaders, Fiji in particular though, have a lot of natural ability – they are athletic and their ability to offload the ball is very strong. They also pride themselves in Sevens which is their main sport but we we can compete if we try hard enough and continuously improve our own game.”
Striving for an Olympic berth
The Olympics remain as the main driving force for many of the Australians, as they strive for one of the 12 berths.
The Rugby Sevens will be played for the first time at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, with the top 12 teams in the world securing a spot in the prestigious competition.
Said van der Walt, “Of course the Olympics is everyone’s goal – we all want to go there to win gold for our country, so we will keep on improving and hopefully to peak at the right time.”
He added, “So the aim now is to have consistent form and keep playing well. We have kind of reached that level now, getting into the top four, but we can’t be winning two games and then dropping one – we will need to perform over all six of the games. That will what we will be striving for.”
Thunderbolts hope to put on a good show for their fans
Winterstein is quietly confident about his team’s chances though. He said, “We are definitely here to win the Cup and are disappointed by last week’s results – fourth place isn’t good enough for Australian Rugby Sevens. But we did not bring home the cup last week in HongKong because we had failed to start off the games the way we would have liked to. So if we can go out there and have a good start and good mentality, then I am sure that we will be able to turn things around.”
He added, “And for our Singaporean fans watching us, hopefully you guys can enjoy the show this weekend – get there early, get a good spot and enjoy some Sevens.”
Click here for the Laksa Making Challenge.