Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay will take on last season’s league winners, Natixis HKFC, at their home ground in the opening match of the 2019/20 season.
Head Coach Brett Wilkinson has unveiled the Sandy Bay version 2.0 squad of 23 who travel to Sports Road and it features eight new faces.
In the starting pack, the debutants include Talaiasi Toma in the second row and Dean Rossouw at openside flanker – both exciting prospects, shoring up the absences of Jack Delaforce and Matt Lamming respectively. Off the bench, expect to see prop Ben Featherstone, who has mad the move from USRC Tigers in the off-season, and young French flanker Felix Bravi who has arrived as exchange student at the Hong Kong University.
The new faces in the starting backline are all grouped in the back three with wingers Brandon Bellamin and Simon Bienvenu and former Kowloon player Iwan Phillips at fullback. George Humphreys will get a run from the bench, covering flyhalf and fullback positions.
With ERP players only permitted to play 12 matches in the domestic season, most clubs will be resting these players in the first three rounds, while also needing to name six players that are aged 25 or under – a requirement of the Challenge Trophy - to help advance the younger talent to the big stage. Sandy Bay ERP players Liam Slatem, Alex Post and Luke van der Smit will sit out this match, as will Alex and Tom McQueen who are currently locked in with the National Sevens team as they compete in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series, in preparation for the Olympic Qualifiers in November.
Gair Currie returns as skipper and forms a centre combination with Guy Spanton, while Kiwi Nik Cumming retains the flyhalf position in his second season with the club. Metters slots in for Slatem at scrum half as he did in the early stages of last season and Stu Black and Jonny Cimmerback will cover from the bench.
The starting pack consists of Ash Hyde, Jak Lam and Zac Cinnamond in the front row with Mark Prior joining Toma in the second row. Big Ben Davey, freish from his Fight Night escapades, gets a start at number 8 and is joined by Web Vueti and Rossouw at the back of the scrum. From the bench, stalwarts Moses Bailey and Jake Rumball provide experience and Callum Tam, fresh from his tour to Brazil with the Hong Kong U20’s, is the reserve hooker.
The last time these two teams met was the Grand Championship semi-final where a convincing win to the Bay stunned league the league winners by 31-10. The Football Club had beaten the Bay all three times in the Premiership but were downed in the Kerry Cup.
As Game of the Week, the match will be broadcast live with commentary on the Sandy Bay Facebook page at HKT4.30pm.
Wilkinson and his coaching team and all the players hope that Sandy Bay fans will get along to HKFC and make some noise in support of this new campaign.