Monthly Archives: November 2008

Battling Singapore takes its place among Asian rugby elite

The report:

The Straits Times carried a report today on the national rugby team winning promotion to the Five Nations of the Asian Rugby Football Union Championships.

The result means that Singapore will get to play against Asian powerhouses Japan (to date, still the only Asian country to play in the Rugby World Cup Finals), South Korea, perennial arch-rivals Hong Kong and Kazakhstan.

My thoughts:

Although I was really thrilled to read about Singapore’s promotion, I was left disappointed with the report as it lacked all the details which would have given a better idea of how Singapore fared against Taiwan and Sri Lanka in the Division One competition which was held in Taiwan earlier this month. And that is why I am not reproducing it here.

Instead,  here’s my compilation of all the information regarding the Division One competition (external links included) as well as my assessment of Singapore’s chances next year:

Prior to the start of the tournament, one would have been hard-pressed to openly predict that Singapore would earn promotion to the Asian Five Nations (A5N) competition. 

After all, Singapore’s recent results against Sri Lanka and Taiwan have been a mixture of narrow wins and defeats.

However, Singapore’s chances did brighten considerably after China suddenly withdrew from the Division One tournament.

After all, according to the International Rugby Board’s most recent world rankings, China is ranked 44th compared to Singapore’s 48th

(Note: when you consider that China only made its international test debut in 1997, losing 3-33 to Singapore, its current ranking is a frightening indication of how far Chinese rugby has progressed since).

It is believed that China pulled out of the Division One because of passport arrangements into Taiwan. China regards Taiwan as part of China whereas Taiwan regards itself as an independent country.

Still, Singapore’s chances of earning promotion to the A5N was really touch-and-go. Furthermore, Singapore’s 18-24 loss to in a warm-up friendly to a largely expatriate Guiness Cup select XV just prior to the Division One tournament definitely didn’t bring up the optimism levels.

In fact, Singapore narrowly escaped defeat to Sri Lanka in its opening match. Trailing 13-20 with just two minutes to go, Singapore scraped a draw when full-back Gareth Pritchard scored a try and John Forrester converted to force the 20-20 draw.

Thanks to Gary Carbines’ excellent and obsessive blog ( on international rugby, you can read the match report here.

Singapore then bounced back from the draw with Sri Lanka to score a 23-22 win over host Taiwan two days later to give itself an outside chance of promotion. Once again, Singapore required a last-minute try to save its skin.

Trailing 16-22 with only just a minute left, Singapore did its second Houdini in 48 hours when it drove back the Taiwanese before hooker Gaspar Tan leapt over the line to score the try. Mohammad Ismail then calmly converted the try to give Singapore the win.

You can read the full-match report here.

But even though Singapore reached the top of the table with its draw and win (giving it a total of eight points), there was still every chance that Sri Lanka, lying second with three points, could pip the Republic to the sole qualifying slot. All the Sri Lankans needed was to beat Taiwan in its last match by two points to shatter Singapore’s dreams.

As such, you can imagine the butterflies in the stomachs of the nerve-wracked Singapore players as they watched the Sri Lanka-Taiwan test from the stands.

But thankfully, all that worrying came to naught and instead, the Singapore team erupted with joy as Taiwan easily defeated Sri Lanka 35-23 (you can read the match report here which also has a nice picture of Singapore skipper Chris Gilbert receiving the Division One trophy from HSBC representative Peter Davies.)

So Singapore will now take its place among Asia’s rugby elite next year.

But to be realistic, it is going to be a mammoth struggle for the Republic to avoid relegation in its first year in the A5N.

Singapore has not played against Japan and South Korea since 1992 and 1994 respectively but the results weren’t pretty. Singapore was hammered 3-120 by Japan at the 1992 ARFU competition and crashed 3-90 to South Korea two years later in the same competition.

And although Singapore has come a long way against Hong Kong since its world-record 13-164 mauling in 1994, it has still not been able to beat the largely expatriate Hong Kong side (it lost 10-12 and 5-25 in 1999, 6-30 in 2000 and 8-26 in 2001).

And although Hong Kong lost to Japan (29-75) and South Korea (24-50) in this year’s A5N, it evnetually finished third by beating Kazakhstan 23-17 and the Arabian Gulf 20-12 (the Arabian Gulf were subsequently relegated after finishing last in the competition).

So unless Singapore can pull off a win over Kazakhstan in next year’s tournament, chances are it will be heading for a drop back into Division One when the dust settles on the A5N.

What I think could be Singapore’s strength though is this never-say-die spirit that it seems to be exhibiting. The fact that the Republic pulled off those two last-gasp wins also attests to a high fitness level which could stand the team in good stead next year.

This assessment aside, Singapore’s promotion means a television treat for local rugby fans. They could get to watch the Singapore tests on television as all the Asian Five Nation matches were screened on ESPN STar Sports (Ch 24) this year. 

I’ll certainly be looking forward to catching all the action on television.

In the meantime, the Singapore Sports Fan sends his heartiest congratulations to the Singapore team for earning promotion. You can find the full squad listed below.

Let’s take it one step at a time – and just savour the joy of promotion first. Cheers to all.

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

The Singapore ARFU SQUAD


Props: Norman Sin, Mark Lee, Nick Dance

Hookers: Gaspar Tan, MD Suhaimi Amran

Locks: Chris Gilbert (Capt), Steve Horsfall, Jeremy Chan

Flankers: Rong Jing Xiang, Andy Bennett, Romi Musa, Jonathan Lee

No. 8: Ben Wheeler                         

Scrum-halves: Tong Chin Hong, Andrew Lee

Out-half: John Forrester                       

Centres: Daniel Thiam, MD Ismail Kadir, Lionel Robinson

Wings: Jonathan Chen, Eric Ng, Pete Williams

Fullbacks: Gareth Pritchard, MD Zaki Mahmood


Related links:


22 Sept – A toast to our rugby heroes of ’78 – and to some fundamental principles of sport 


24 July: Remembering the National Stadium – Best Memory #5

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Newsflash: Tao Li hits out at S’pore Swimming Association for airport no-show

National swimmer and recent World Cup gold-medallist and record-breaker Tao Li has hit out at the Singapore Swimming Association for failing to turn up at Changi Airport last week to welcome her and her team-mates back from the World Cup.

The 18-year-old sensation had a fantastic FINA/Arena World Cup series in November, bagging three golds, a silver in the 10m butterfly and three bronzes in the 50m butterfly.

Tao Li is disappointed by the no-show by Singapore Swimming Association officials

Tao Li is disappointed by the no-show by Singapore Swimming Association officials

Her World Cup campaign ended on a high in Berlin, the last leg of the seven-leg series, when she set a new World Cup record in the 100m butterfly on 16 November. She clocked 56.28secs to beat the record of 56.34222 set by American swimmer Natalie Coughlin in 2002.

That made her the first Singapore swimmer ever to set a world record in the World Cup.

Prior to that, Tao Li had bagged a gold in the 100m butterfly in Singapore. She won a silver in the same event in Moscow, Russia before striking gold again in Stockholm, Sweden.

However, despite all her successes in the pool, Tao Li was left disappointed by the no-show by Singapore Swimming Association officials when she returned to Singapore last week.

The no-show was a huge contrast to the huge reception that national bowler and QubicaAMF World Cup champion Jasmine Yeong-Nathan received from the Singapore Bowling Federation at the airport upon her return from Mexico, where the tournament was held.

Not only had the Singapore Bowing Federation arranged for a huge crowd of friends, fans and well-wishers to welcome Yeong-Nathan back, the association also arranged for a vintage Bentley convertible, decorated with balloons, to chauffer her back to her home in Clementi. 

Said Tao Li in an interview with The Sunday Times (23 November 2008): “There was no one from the association to receive us at the airport on our return from the last leg in Berlin, compared to the bowlers.

“I competed in a world event and it’s my world record there. There were three other swimmers, and they put al their effort in as well. Where’s the support for them?”

Given her growing status as a world-class swimmer, Tao Li’s criticism is bound to cause a stir in local swimming circles.

It will also make officials from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports and the Singapore Sports Council. After all, the MCYS and the SSC has been heavily promoting the concept of Team Singapore among its athletes, national sports associations and the public since 2001 and even has a Team Singapore department and website ( )

However, the airport no-show by the Singapore Swimming Association suggests that despite all its efforts, the Team Singapore spirit has yet to be fully embraced by some quarters. 

Yours in sport

Singapore Sports Fan

P/S: Watch a Youtube video of Tao LI’s World Cup record-breaking swim in Berlin here.  

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Newsflash: Jasmine is Singapore’s first AMF World Cup champion!

National bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan wrte a proud new chaper in the history of Singapore sport and Singapore bowing when she defeated Ann-Maree Putney to win the 44th QubicaAMF World Cup at the Bol 300 Centre in Hermosillo, Mexico, toay.


The 20-year-old Singapore Polytechnic student became the first Singapore bowler to win the prestigious competition, ending the Republic’s silver streak in the competition. The closest Singapore had ever come to winning the AMF World Cup was in the men’s finals in 1970 and in 2002. On both occasions, Henry Tan and Remy Ong came up short, as they faltered at the final hurdle.


The best a national woman bowler has ever done at the World Cup was fourth spot – achieved by Grace Young in 1994.


But Yeong-Nathan made sure the curse of the silver streak did not rear ts head this time as she blitzed defending champion Putney 263-222 and 298-215 in the step-ladder finals today.


Putney, who hails from Australia, had reached the final after beating England’s Zara Glover 246-219 and 248-202 in the first step-ladder final.


However, the defending champ had no answer to Yeong-Nathan’s sizzling form on the lanes. The 2005 national champion reeled off nine consecutive strikes in the first game before falling prey to a split in the last frame. But that was enough to give her a commanding 263-222 win over Putney, and a great morale booster going into the final clash.


Yeong-Nathan then looked as though she could scored her second perfect game of the tournament in the second game. The Singapore Polytechnic student hammered 11 strikes in a row and could have, with her last throw, capped off her triumph with a second perfect game.


But she left two pins standing instead.


“I tried to throw the best ball that I could, and if that meant a 300, then that is what it meant,” she said on the Singapore Bowling Federation website.


When asked what the triumph meant to her, she seemed at a loss of words and could only muster stock phrases. As she said in a Channel News Asia report: “I feel happy and excited, and honoured to be able to bring home the title for Singapore. I’m really grateful for the chance to be here.”


And we are all excited and happy for you too, Jasmine. You’re now our first AMF world champion and we are all so proud of you!


Yours in sport


Singapore Sports Fan

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