Rugby: Back at SCC Sevens after 6-year break, Auckland giants Ponsonby eye title

SINGAPORE – New Zealand’s most successful rugby club Ponsonby claimed the Auckland Championship this year, their first since 2011, taking their tally to a record 45.

They have also produced more than 40 All Blacks.

And captain William Talataina-Mu attributes much of his team’s success over the years to the club’s mantra: There is no easy pony.

At the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC) International Rugby sevens press conference on Thursday (Nov 1), the 23-year-old forward explained: “When you play Ponsonby, you know you are not going to get an easy game.

“Many people want to play for our premier and sevens teams just because of the rich history we have. We get a lot of good players and we push each other to become better.”

The three-time SCC sevens champions’ work ethic was evident in Singapore.

After touching down on Tuesday night following a 10.5-hour flight from Auckland, they had a morning fitness session on Wednesday to “blow out the cobwebs” before an afternoon training session to get used to the heat.

Why? Because after a six-year absence from the tournament, they have only one aim. Talataina-Mu said: “We have a young squad excited to showcase our talents, and we come to win.”

Along with Ponsonby, six-time SCC sevens winners Daveta from Fiji are the other favourites among the 12 teams duking it out for the Ablitt Cup tomorrow and Sunday at the Padang.

Daveta suffered a heartbreaking extra-time defeat by the France Development Team – who will not defend their title – in the final last year, but their captain Veniona Vuki insisted they will not be motivated by anger or sadness.

The 27-year-old prop said: “Last year, we had more 15s players but, this year, we are back with more sevens players. We are fitter, stronger, and faster, and we are ready for this big challenge.”

Asia will be represented by Hong Kong Dragons, featuring players from the Chinese territory who won gold at this year’s Asian Games, Japan’s Kurumi and Tamariva, and Singapore’s SCC and SCC Barbarians.

Last year, SCC lost 19-14 to Western Australia’s Cottesloe in the Plate final, while the Barbarians were edged out by East Arnhem from Australia’s Northern Territory 26-24 in the Bowl final.

SCC captain Michael Oliver is looking forward to causing some upsets against bigger sides and better results after training three times a week for the past three months.

The 27-year-old fly-half said: “We have worked hard on our fitness, defence and skills. It is important we get our structure right. We will try to be patient with the ball and break our opponents down.

“We are a really fit team. All of us can last the full 14 minutes and we are going out there for the win.”

Besides the Ablitt Cup, the three-day tournament will also feature schools, college, mini rugby and corporate touch competitions.

• Tickets for adults ($30), students and full-time national servicemen ($10) are available at the door. Prices exclude $1 booking fee.