08 Mar 2018

Tigers centre Braam Gerber offloads in attack versus Valley

The scene is set for one of the best Hong Kong Rugby Union Men’s Premiership grand championship finals in some time when the Borrelli Walsh USRC Tigers take on Societe Generale Valley at King’s Park at 6.45pm on Saturday.

Tigers are the defending Old Mutual International Premiership league champions and have been in superb form, while Valley have been doing just enough in their bid to extend their incredible run of five consecutive grand championships.

Tigers have won the last two meetings between the sides but coach Sam Hocking knows Valley are a different prospect when it really matters.

“Valley have been there before, they’ve done it for the past five years and they are always a tough opposition,” he said.

“Valley have added a few new players over Christmas and they’ve changed the way that they play slightly; added to that is a couple of boys who have just come back from injury - Matt Rosslee, Tiger Bax hasn’t played much rugby this year and Ben Higgins only came back recently.

“They’re a different beast completely to the first two games we played them, they were fairly strong in the third game and I think we put in a good representation of ourselves but it’s the grand final so you can’t go on past performances.

“Their two wingers add a bit more zip in the way that they play, Josh Gordon and Leroy van Dam. They are big threats, especially in their counter-attack game.

“Paul Altier at full back is a bit of an unknown, very cavalier in the way that he plays.”

And while looking past Valley’s sublime record is hard, Hocking knows his team have what it takes to cap off a groundbreaking season.

“We are going in pretty confident, to be honest the boys have deserved that with the way they’ve played,” he said.

“The boys have to turn up, make sure we prepare well and have a go at it. As long as we prepare right for, it puts us in good shape.

“It is more about worrying about ourselves, Valley will do what they do and we will try and nullify that and try and dictate the game. In terms of our kicking game, we are going to have to be careful not to give them too much ball and too much time and space.

“We need to control the ball more than anything and not let Valley off with easy outs or easy penalties.”

Hocking expects everyone from the semi-final win over Kowloon to be available, while devastating winger Salom Yiu Kam-shing is a chance to return from a finger injury.

Valley face the unusual prospect of coming in as the underdog but coach Andrew Kelly knows that – and his side’s previous success – matters for little.

“They’re the league winners, they’ve beaten us twice in the league and they have got a really good, well-rounded team, so it will be a good test for us,” he said.

“I think you have got to take every final on its own merit, every one is different and coughs up different challenges. A final is a clean slate, past records don’t count, it’s just who performs on the day.”

Valley have a couple of players carrying niggles from their one-point semi-final triumph over Football Club who will be given until the last minute to prove their fitness.

Kelly is keen to make sure his side are ready for whatever Tigers throw at them and has done his homework.

“Tigers will bring a different game to Football Club, we have looked at the video and seen where we can attack and where we will have to defend the most. They are a really good outfit, they are good up front and have got a good backline so they will be a real test,” he said.