Rugby gaining popularity in Philippines-A A +A
Sunday, March 17, 2013
IN THE minds of many Filipinos, playing rugby favors specialization of strength, stamina and speed, from the often light-bodied and light-footed speed to the lumbering, and wrestling.
Who would have thought that an 80-minute long rugby game that is confrontational, tactical, mentally-demanding, and physically grueling, is starting to gain popularity in the Philippines.
The success of the Philippine Volcanoes in the recent Asian 5 Nations tournament has made Filipinos take notice of the sport.
In Davao City, 10 members of the Davao Durian Rugby Football Club, 40 college students of the Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku and 30 high school students of the Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai International School broke a sweat during an afternoon of coaching session and ruby clinic on March 13.
The Davao coaching team is composed of four professional rugby players belonging to the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) whose members are from a variety of indigenous communities from Australia, who are in the country for the 2nd Manila 10s slated March 16-17 at the Nomad Sports Club, Merville Park Subdivision in Paranaque City.
Partnering with the ARU team are members of the Visayas Mindanao Rugby Football Union (VisMinRFU) led by its chair Simon Hoyle.
Last year, Manila 10s attracted 32 teams with the Philippines fielding in the most number of contingents with 11 teams.
Simultaneously, another four-member coaching team held a rugby clinic in Angeles, Pampanga for the Clark junior Rugby Club while, on March 14, the underprivileged children of Tuloy Foundation gets coached by 4 ARU members.
Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), proponent of the P6-billion Tampakan Copper-Gold project in Mindanao, is hosting the 12-man rugby Australian team in the 2013 Manila 10s.
According to Bing Ganchero, manager for SMI Regional and Provincial Affairs, they thought of splitting the indigenous rugby group so that more youths can benefit from the rugby clinic.
"Last year, we only had one in Angeles. Rugby is a popular sport in Australia where Xtrata is holding is business office,” Ganchero said in explaining that Xtrata has been working in a number of places arounf the globe where there communities of indigenous people.
In pursuit of its corporate social responsibility in supporting the youth in various project communities, Ganchero said, SMI and Xtrata have been relentlessly been involved in the development of sports aside from health and education.
"Though we also earlier supported taekwondo activities, we will try to explore how we could try to participate in rugby development in Mindanao. This now a new focus for rugby enthusiasts. It is catching fire in terms of interest," she said, referring to the VisMinRFU, whose 10-year development plan includes the involvement off out of school youths in the new sports. "We have the same aspiration."
Founded two years ago in Cebu, VisMinRFU hopes to develop rugby in all regions of the country and eventually mustering a bigger rugby community for Filipinos in the southern part of the country.
VisMinRFU chair Hoyle said rugby development is hard work but rewarding. He urged Filipinos to love the sport and the best time to learn it is when you are still young.
Hoyle, a British national who has been staying in the country for 22 years now, took pride in saying that 15 players of the men’s national team are from Leyte while two lady rugby players are with the female national team.
Twenty-six-year-old Rose Mae S. Lanticse, member of the Cebu Lady Dragons and whose team played in international games, said she started learning the game since 2007.
"The ladies back then simply played the `touch rugby' version of the game. When the opportunity to represent the country opened, it motivated me to learn the game. Our team was the pioneer in the ladies division," said Lanticse, who was among the female coaches in last week's rugby clinic at Philippine Nikkei Jin Kai grounds.
The Philippines' Men's 7 team ranks third, tied with Korea and China, in the Asian 7s Rugby competition in 2011. In the Men’s 15s, the country ranks No. 56 among more than 100 countries in the International Rugby Board.
"This is the start and let us make it happen," Hoyle said.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 18, 2013.