The National Mens Team’s performance in Taiwan last week has certainly stirred the emotions and hopes of the rugby community as the Republic climbs back to Division 1 in the Asia Rugby ecosystem. With that means a stronger challenge on fronts and the need for a stronger squad with the tournament slated to be held in the May 2018 Window. Consideration for the wider selection squad for 2018 is only applicable to players who play in the Premiership, and those aspiring for that jersey will have to contend with the 2017 team, making this season one to watch.
Defending champions Bucks had 4 players make the plane for Taiwan. Full back Jonathan Barber was truly unfortunate to sustain an injury while in country that kept him out of both games. His goal kicking was certainly missed and he will certainly be back with a vengeance in the upcoming weeks upon recovery. His positional play will link up well with centre Charlie Lambert who had to play fullback in Taiwan in Barber’s absence. 4 tries against India and a mistake-free final against Thailand will certain spur Lambert to emulate the same performance for the club as they look to stoutly defend their title. Brice Derouet was outstanding at flanker for Singapore, and his speed to the breakdowns coupled with the bruising uncompressing play of Alex Cook means that Bucks will have some talent in both forwards and backs to mount their title defense.
Wanderers were the bridesmaids last season, but with the largest representation in Taiwan, they are certainly not lacking talent. The Wanderers Front Row will be one to contend with, especially with the likes of Hasif Azman and David Gull having standout performances for the country. Randall Quek continues to stake his claim upfront for club and country. Mathew Humpreys started the tournament with the unfamiliar number 6 on his back, but certainly has made his mark to give his coaches and opposition alike some headaches. Murray Campbell will want to continue his stellar play, but hopefully not from the bench. Syed Faddill is a talent at halfback that needs more time to grow and he will be hoping to make a greater impression this season to make a case back into the national team jumper. Robert Riha scored on debut for Singapore and ended the tournament with 2 tries. One can hope that his streak continues into the premiership season as he pairs up again with Fathur Rahman for club as they did for country. Tom Child unfortunately will not be showing his blockbusting runs from centre as he moves to Korea to further his career and will certainly be missed. Nashurul Hanafi ended his year with a 7s silver medal and a Division 2, not too bad all things considered and he will be looking to hopefully have a premiership title come 2018.
Bedok Kings also had a sizeable contingent in the national setup, and the find of the tournament was certainly young dental student Maverick Lim. The Raffles Institution alumni made the most of his opportunities in Taiwan, scoring against India on debut off the bench and scoring again as he started against Taiwan. It was his defensive display against Thailand that made people look up and it is hoped he will do the same for Bedok. Kyle Cheong is a flyhalf for the future and he would have gained greatly from the mentorship in Taiwan. Look for him to combine with Lim and Samuel Lau in the backs. Lau was a leader from start to finish and Bedok has the good fortune to have leaders like him and national skipper Gaspar Tan in the side. Evergreen Paul Valin worked and improved at all stages of the national team campaign and will certainly look to have an opportunity for one last roll of the dice in national colours. Bedok will have a good headache rather than a scrum half controversy with Azmi Suliman and Farhan Amran both playing well in Taiwan. There is talk of a position change for one of them, and one can only guess, but will only benefit Bedok’s aspirations.
SCC had two contributions to this year’s squad, with Gabriel Lee unfortunate to be rule out of consideration due to injury. Their contributions in the shape of Peter Mcfeely and Patrick Duffy were crucial to the win in Taiwan. Mcfeely was a dominant force at number 8, and Duffy stepped up to make the kicks when it mattered. It will be an interesting prospect if both can re-create their performances for club and country as SCC looks to finally have their hands on the title after more than 20 years.
Saints had Teng Chong Yao represent the club after he stepped up from the South East Asian Games. His speed and composure was one to watch and he would be a talent to look out for with Saints committing to another season in the top flight.
As a community, these players represented their country and their clubs well on the international stage, and they now have a change to show their talents in club colours as they stake a claim for the next national team. They will need to be on their “A” game with many wanting that Jersey as well.
The Premiership season kicks off this Saturday with with SCC v Bucks and Bedok Kings v Wanderers. Fixtures can be found HERE.