Taiwan finished sixth in the last leg of the HSBC Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Singapore on Saturday and Sunday, the team’s best performance of the year, with coach Nathan Mauger picking the highlight as the 19-17 defeat of the Philippines, who had previously beaten his team by a large margin in India.
Taiwan also beat Thailand 14-7, before going down in the plate final 0-38 to Sri Lanka.
Mauger said the win over the Philippines was “a reflection of how much the team has grown in the short amount of time that I have been with them.”
“I was pleased with the result, given we were understrength due to losing key players to injury, one of them ruled out the night before the tournament had even started. On the flip side, this provided the opportunity to blood a couple of the younger members in the squad, who will benefit from the experience,” Mauger said.
One of the players to go down with an injury was Hsieh Bing-yi, but not before he powered the side to their opening win over Thailand with a try and an assist.
“Our goal for Singapore was to make the semi-finals, but because of all the injuries we did not make it,” the Keelung player said.
Hsieh said he looks forward to returning to the squad next year and said Taiwan should bid to host a leg of the series.
“It could let the world know about Taiwan,” he said.
Hsieh laid on one try against Thailand and then, with the scores locked at 7-7 and time almost up, he broke the Thailand defense to score under the posts.
When asked why he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, he said: “Willpower. When the sides are fatigued, whoever is more determined, more confident, they will win the game.”
Mauger expressed overall satisfaction with the progress made over the eight weeks he spent with the national team.
“I’m confident the results would have been even better had I had more time to prepare the team leading into the series. Hopefully, all going well, I will have the opportunity to return next year to build on what I would consider a solid foundation,” he said.
The former All Black said his contract with the Chinese Taipei Rugby Football Union expires shortly and he is discussing a return next year.
“If I do return, the key areas I would like to focus on to ensure there is sustainable growth in rugby here are raise greater awareness in the community, promote rugby to help grow numbers and increase interest levels, review current player and coach development pathways/systems,” he said.
A key issue Mauger identified was that the national players retire from international rugby at an early age to join the workforce, which effectively means not all of the best and most talented players are available for selection.
“It is my hope that we can find a solution to this problem, as in my view to achieve success you need the best players possible to represent the team,” he said.
Meanwhile, Lomu Yeh, who runs the separate Taiwan Rugby Union, is planning a fourth installment of his national 10s rugby tournament.
“I think it’s [the Asian Sevens series] really good to promote rugby in Asia,” Yeh said. “Japan is doing well in it, and Hong Kong is too. Sri Lanka and China also put in good performances.”
However, the former National Taiwan University player said the series was unlikely to make it to Taiwan any time soon.
“If you ask for my opinion, nobody can handle it now, but, yes, it will be good if we host it,” he said. “If a country wants to host a leg of the series, I think the official union has to ask for it. I’d like to do it, but I’m not the official union, so I’m working on the 2014 Taiwan 10s.”
“I think the biggest problems are how to get the government to buy into the event and how to get sponsors,” Yeh added.
Yeh has received confirmation from the New Taipei City Government that his tournament can go ahead in May.
Previous tournaments have pitted teams from Taiwan and overseas in men’s, women’s and senior divisions. He plans to use Banciao Stadium for the two-day event next year.
“I don’t think the government will buy into rugby unless we do something. They don’t know what to do and how to help. So the best idea is let them believe we can do something,” he said. “I hope the 10s next year will be ‘something.’”