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Sunday, January 08, 2006

 

Rugby Personalities: 'Tokkie' Smith - The Hong Kong King

By: Rasputin

It is a little known, or oft forgotten fact, that it was a Cape Town born and raised lad who initiated the stunningly popular Hong Kong Sevens.

In the process he was probably responsible for ensuring Sevens has the worldwide popularity it does today.

ADC "Tokkie" Smith, an amiable South African businessman with the entrepreneurial touch was born and raised in Cape Town before moving to Hong Kong.

In 1975 Smith, as Chairman of the HKRFU, was having lunch with tobacco executive, Ian Gow, who happened to mention that his company were looking to sponsor an international Sevens tournament.

Unsurprisingly the '57 old farts' at Twickenham's RFU were uninterested and it was left to the mercurial talents of Tokkie Smith to conceive of, and implement, the first ever international Sevens tournament which he, inevitably, placed in Hong Kong.

Letters of invitation were immediately sent out to countries as diverse as Australia, Fiji and Sri Lanka and on the 28 March 1976 12 club teams came together at the Hong Kong Football Club to compete in a one day competition in front of 3000 fans.

From those humble beginnings, and through a number of stadium changes, the event has now grown to the extent where those who can't obtain tickets to the 40 000 seater stadium, end up in a specially tented village near the stadium. The time old traditions of hedonism are annually observed and immense fun is had by all.

Anyone who has been to the Hong Kong Sevens vouches for the absolute jol that it is and many a lifelong friendship has been struck up there.

The RFU may have spurned the initial opportunity to support the idea but ultimately it's popularity inevitably led the IRB to introduce the annual Sevens circuit and the RWC Sevens. The first being held in Scotland in 1993, followed by Hong Kong in 1997, Argentina in 2001 and Hong Kong again in 2005.

Amongst the many who have graced the tournament are the likes of Christian Cullen, Jonah Lomu, Joost van der Westhuizen and Jean de Villiers.

So, let's lift a glass and toast the enterprise of a Cape Town born lad who had the vision and energy to create one of the annual must-attend events on the international rugby circuit.


Sources: BC Magazine, hksevens.com and rwcsevens.com

Comments:
Strange how great ideas gets (a) shot down by the 'farts' (b) and then enthusiastically promoted!
Same happened with pajama cricket, not so?
Very interesting thread, Ras!
 
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