Sevens stars who have shone bright in Hong Kong

Joe Byrnes recalls four legends of rugby sevens who have lit up Hong Kong Stadium over the years, as the HSBC SVNS 2024 series stops at the legendary venue for the last time

Jonah Lomu

Such is the magnitude of the man’s exploits, the pressure to do Lomu do justice with the pen feels almost as daunting as what it was to play him; at least, until you recall the numbers…

Standing at 196cm, weighing in at 120kgs, and boasting a sub-11 second 100m, Lomu picked up a hat-trick of Cup wins from 1994-96. 

The colossal winger was always destined for legendary status but The Hong Kong 7s was undoubtedly his launchpad. To this day, no individual has transcended the game quite like Lomu, and his formative years that coincided with the explosion of love for the Hong Kong 7s meant these two pillars of the game would be forever intertwined.

His pace and power – and the trail of destruction he left in his wake – were unparalleled, and the Hong Kong crowd loved him for it. He played alongside some of the greats: Eric Rush, Christian Cullen and Karl Te Nana, to name a few, yet he still commands the thickest chapter in Hong Kong-All Black sevens folklore.

When not rampaging through opposition, he was innovating in the truest spirit of sevens. Another legend of the game, commentator Bill McLaren once described the ‘94 All Black 7s as passing ‘basketball style’, but Big Jonah went one US sport further when he jaw-droppingly quarter-backed a pass American Football-style nigh on touchline-to-touchline, to leave opposition England in disbelief and the So Kon Po crowd in raptures.


Ben Gollings

The greatest points scorer in the history of the sport flies the Northern Hemisphere flag solo in this roll call of Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens greats, with 276 of his 2,652 points coming at this very tournament. No one has scored more in Hong Kong history – and even more remarkably, he plundered all his points in just eight appearances.

He was the linchpin of England’s early Noughties dominance when they won four titles in five years including a hat-trick from 2002-2004. England were only denied a ‘Famous Five’ on the bounce by virtue of Fiji’s Serevi-inspired 2005 World Cup-winning run. 

However, England exacted revenge the following year in dramatic fashion with Gollings the hero, scoring and converting in the dying seconds to claim the 2006 crown 26-24.

Little did that jubilant group know that, to this day, they would be the last Northern Hemisphere side to climb the famous steps.

“Hong Kong is the biggest Sevens tournament in the World” Gollings said in the aftermath of that final. Well, when the biggest tournament came calling, invariably England's most prolific points harvester answered emphatically.

Stacey Waaka

Where there’s a Waaka, there’s a way… to the try line. ‘The Smiling Assassin’ was at her lethal best last year, when the women’s sevens series shared the So Kon Po stage for the first time.

She scored a hat-trick in The Black Ferns’ opener and finished with a Championship-clinching brace in the Final.

To be in the old stadium for their pulsating final against their arch rivals Australia was to see Sevens at its electrifying best. 

The air was heavy, not just with Hong Kong humidity, but with an intangible expectation of a final for the ages. The hype was delivered. Two teams at the peak of their powers in one of the all-time ding-dongs – a match, a memory to savour. 

A great final takes two great teams, but an epic takes a heroine, and two-try player of the final Waaka was just that.

Balance, pace, guile, desire, inimitable killer try-scoring instinct… and all accompanied with a mega-watt smile… Spellbinding sevens rugby and joy. Waaka embodies the two tenets of the Cathay/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens. As the age-old adage goes: winners are grinners.

Waisale Serevi

And so to the King. The man who made us marvel. The rugby reason we all fell to our knees at the sevens altar.

Waisale Serevi began his Hong Kong love affair in 1989, marking it with a Player of the Tournament performance and would go on to delight the crowds another 15 times as a player and coach.

Five Cup-winning performances, seven other Final involvements and not one but two RWC7s triumphs on Hong Kong soil, knitted together by more than 1,000 points makes the little magician the greatest to ever do it at the tournament.

His impact on Fijian sevens can never be understated. Without Serevi, there would be no William Ryder, no Jerry Tuwai – there may not even be two Fijian Olympic Golds. Would Hong Kong and Serevi be so revered without one another? Possibly not.

The two brought out the best in one another and when one looks to hook the next generation on this spellbinding pursuit you tell them to YouTube ‘Serevi at Hong Kong’ because there is no more potent duo in the history of the sport.

The Sultan of the sidestep, God of the goosey, Prince of poise, the Creator of the most notorious celebration in Hong Kong history… The King of 7s.

So here’s to one last dance in the South Stand, one last chance for a player to join the pantheon of SVNS immortals, and here’s to one last pass of the greatest stadium in SVNS history. So long old friend … and thanks for the memories.