06 Sep 2019

Saturday marks the return of domestic rugby with the kick-off of the 66th annual Hong Kong Rugby Union (HKRU) Premiership. Leading provider of multi-asset trading and investing platforms, Saxo Markets, has extended its support as the principal sponsor of the HKRU Men’s Leagues for this and next season, deepening its investment in the game locally.


Nearly 2,000 registered players will contest over 400 games, across 60 teams and seven senior leagues this season. At the pinnacle of the action is the Saxo Markets Premiership, which begins Saturday with an innovative new twist, the Saxo Markets Challenge Trophy.


Details of the expanded partnership were announced yesterday by Mr Matt Long, CEO of Saxo Markets and newly elected HKRU Chairman, Mr Patrick Donovan, in Central, Hong Kong.


Matt Long, CEO of Saxo Capital Markets, comments:

“Saxo Markets is delighted to extend our sponsorship of the ‘Saxo Markets Premiership’ for the coming two years. We see rugby as very inclusive as a sport that is played globally and this year’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup for the first time ever in Asia will continue to draw attention to the game and its ethos.


“Saxo Markets has a diverse customer base, with both local clients and expats from different backgrounds. From our sponsorship last year, we found that their involvement and love of rugby has really allowed us to bond with them and for them to get to know us better.


“What we saw last year was really positive, for our firm, our brand and most importantly for our customers, so it was really a very easy decision for us to both renew and deepen our engagement with the game in Hong Kong.


“Rugby is a global sport and growing quickly in Hong Kong, which is also an important and fast growing market for Saxo, one where we provide investors and traders truly global access to the world’s investment markets, from one trading account,” added Mr Long.


Newly elected HKRU Chairman Patrick Donovan welcomed the renewal saying:

“As last season’s competition demonstrated, the parity and competitiveness of the Premiership has gone from strength to strength. Driven by the advent of the HKRU’s Elite Rugby Programme and the South China Tigers and Global Rapid Rugby, the growing standard of the Premiership is on full display - and attracting an increasing number of fans from around the block, and around the world.


“This positive trend would not be possible without the support of Saxo Markets. Their continued commitment is recognised and appreciated by all of our passionate community,” added Mr Donovan.


The Premiership begins on Saturday with the six clubs - Natixis Hong Kong Football Club, Bloomberg Hong Kong Scottish, Kerry Hotel Kowloon, Herbert Smith Freehills HKU Sandy Bay, Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers and Societe Generale Valley - contesting a new competition to start the season, the Saxo Markets Challenge Trophy.


The Challenge Trophy is designed to create space for local emerging age grade talent (25 and under) to have an extended trial with the Premiership giants ahead of the regular season.


The HKRU has loosened age requirements for Challenge Trophy matches to allow younger players to earn playing time alongside Hong Kong’s Premiership stars. Each club is allowed five players aged 25 and under in their Challenge Trophy squads, and the clubs have been given until after the competition to submit their final 32-man squads, providing incentive and opportunity for Hong Kong’s young guns to push for places in the final teams.


The Challenge Trophy is played over five rounds (7 Sept.-5 Oct.), followed by a ten-week Premiership (14 Oct. - 18 Jan.) with semi finals on 2 February and the Grand Championship final on 8 February.  With an extended bump in, this year’s Premiership promises to be even more thrilling than last, when HKFC captured its first league title in 11 seasons and two debutants reached their first Grand Final in Sandy Bay and HK Scottish.  Fuelled by the increasing professional rugby opportunities in Hong Kong, the league has seen another influx of top talent in 2019, with nearly 40 players signed by the Premiership sides for the season ahead.


Last year’s league and grand championship winning clubs, HKFC and Sandy Bay, have shown early intent with some of the bigger intakes for the coming season.


Club welcomes seven new arrivals, while losing just two from last season’s league winners. They have also completed a first full off-season under coach Jack Wiggins who spurred the revival at Sports Road after arriving at season start last year. Club’s new players include winger and former England Sevens representative Jack Wilson, who made his debut at the Hong Kong Sevens in 2012 and Jonty Wood and Eremia Tapsell from New Zealand’s ITM Cup competition.


Sandy Bay farewelled Dylan Rogers, Ben Roberts and Gus Cameron with a grand championship title, but have welcomed in five new players, including some additional backline depth and another grafting South African forward in Currie Cup veteran Dean Roussow, who joins compatriot Luke van der Smit in the back row at the Bay.


The absence of club stalwart Nick Hewson, No.8 Karetai Williams and centre Richie Lewis will be keenly felt at Valley, but the perennial contenders have opted for quality over quantity with some impact signings, including New Zealand U20s representative Penikolo Latu; Wales U20s back rower Sion Bennett; and Northland and North Harbour Sevens specialist Whiria Maltzer as they target a return to the grand championship.


After the departure of halfbacks Josh Walden and Robbie Keith, USRC Tigers have welcomed four new additions, including massive no.10 Sam Hayward, who represented Canada at the World Rugby U20 Trophy here in 2014; Ryan Spriggs from Cardiff; Owen Davies and front rower Tonga Tangitau also join the men’s side this season.


After a gut-check season due to injuries, Kowloon bulked up in the forwards this summer, bringing in UK Premiership prop Tom Bristow (Sale), second row Dave Markham (Rouen) and hard-running forward Tu’uta Simaile from Northland, while George Watkins (Bristol, Leeds) and Joe Barker (Leeds), who finished a four-year stint as player-coach at Rotherham before joining, add danger and depth in the line.


It has been a busy off-season at HK Scottish as they plot their return to the grand final. Five new signings this season have arrived including three forwards: ex-Glasgow Warriors and Scotland U20s back rower Rory Drummond; hooker Harry Baron, a former London Wasps Academy member; and Charlie Morgan, a second row who played with Worcester Warriors U18 and England Counties U18 and was most recently player-coach at Exeter University.


In the backs, Scottish welcomes Ben Lee, a Hong Kong-born talent training alongside the HKRU sevens squad. Lee played at Bristol Academy and with the Bristol Sonics Rugby league side. Former Canterbury Crusader Mike Green also joins the side, while Scottish bolstered its ranks on either side of the touchline in welcoming Peter Jercevich as an assistant coach, and a handy interior back. Formerly a Coach Development Officer for Scottish Rugby, Jercevich has coached various age grade levels including national women’s XV and sevens level.


Adding a new wrinkle to the importance of this season’s performance is the creation of an HK$200,000 prize fund out of the Saxo Markets sponsorship funding, for the Premiership clubs. A sliding scale bonus will be awarded to the teams based on their final ranking with investment accounts established for each club based on their finish, from HK$60,000 for the league winners down to HK$10,000 for the sixth placed finishers. Saxo is also engaging with the rugby community at large by offering exclusive preferential pricing on its investment products to all registered HKRU members throughout the 2019/2020 seasons. 


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