Rugby: Maori magic

Rugby: Maori magic
SKILLS: Maori All Blacks' scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park (above, left) evading the attentions of a Raffles Institution player.

The Maori All Blacks are unbeaten in 18 matches stretching back to June 2003 when they lost to England 23-9. Since then they have claimed the scalps of The British and Irish Lions, England and Ireland.

The Maori All Blacks were scheduled to play an exhibition match against the Asia Pacific Dragons at the National Stadium this Saturday, but it was cancelled due to the poor quality of the pitch.

But the players were still able to thrill their fans when they guided more than 100 local junior rugby players at a coaching session at Raffles Institution (RI) yesterday.

AIG, which hosted the event, is the Maori All Blacks' major global sponsor and official insurance partner.

The RI coaching clinic was part of the team's three-day visit to support the growth of rugby in Singapore, which is something that AIG's chief agency officer for South-east Asia Peter Van Zyl is committed to.

"We are thrilled to be bringing the Maori All Blacks here to Singapore, and what more to RI, which is one of the best in schools rugby," said the South African, who has lived in Asia for more than 10 years.

"Rugby is one of the fastest-growing sports in the world and is rising in popularity in many Asian countries, including Singapore.

"We're thrilled to be in a position to be able to support the rugby development of these students." HAKA Before the hour-long coaching clinic, the RI students welcomed the Maori All Blacks - one of six New Zealand rugby franchises, including Rugby World Cup-holders the All Blacks - with the haka.

The visitors went through training drills like scrumming, forward play and positioning, while also imparting advice on the importance of safety to the students.

RI's A Division team captain Shant Sin was overjoyed at getting to meet his idols.

"It's a great honour and privilege to get a coaching session with them," said the 17-year-old.

"We really look up to them, so it's a huge pleasure to be able to speak to them and get tips about rugby."

But the Maori All Blacks were still slightly upset about the cancellation of the match against the Asia Pacific Dragons.

Team captain Charlie Ngatai said: "We're a little bummed out at not being able to play the Dragons, who are a fantastic side.

"It would have been good to play another game for the Maori All Blacks.

"But it's good to be here and just show the students a few skills and tips."

Van Zyl agreed, and pointed out how much meeting the players would mean to the students.

"The match didn't happen. It's unfortunate, but that's all right. But I think what's more significant is how much of a memorable experience this was for the RI boys," he said.

"Everyone looks back on those times when they met their idols, and it gives them motivation to do well. We believe that with events like this one can only help the sport to grow."

This article was first published on Nov 11, 2014.
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