29th Oct 2015 -

But while 24 teams chase the Ablitt Cup, schools competition is axed due to the haze

Sanjay Nair

Before blossoming into one of world rugby's most feared wingers, Nehe Milner-Skudder was showcasing his penchant for powering past opponents on the Padang.

Then a relative unknown, the New Zealand speedster led the Penguins to victory at the 2010 Singapore Cricket Club International Rugby Sevens (SCC 7s).

The iconic tournament returns for its 68th edition from Friday to Sunday, with a record 24 teams from 11 countries looking to slug it out for the coveted Ablitt Cup.

Unfortunately, the haze, which is continuing to blanket the island, has resulted in the schools section of the tournament being cancelled.

Organisers also revealed that play would be halted at the Padang if the three-hour PSI exceeds 200.

A decision will then be taken on whether to shorten the schedule or postpone the event.

If the weather behaves, a crowd of 15,000 is expected across the three days for the Ablitt Cup action.

Milner-Skudder, of course, will be busy with the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup final against arch-rivals Australia on Saturday.

But fans can expect to see other rising talents, with the likes of England, France and Australia sending their development squads.

After a three-year absence, South Africa's national team are also back as they prepare for the 2015-16 Sevens World Series starting in December.

"The fact that such big teams are coming shows how seriously they take the tournament, and the quality of rugby that spectators can expect to see over three days," said SCC 7s organising committee chief Jonathan Leow, the first local to hold the post since Laurence Chan in 1997.

"There may be no prize money, but there's plenty of pride at stake thanks to the unique blend of elite clubs and top amateur sides."

With the National Stadium hosting a leg of the Sevens World Series from April 16-17 next year, SCC 7s attendees can better acquaint themselves with the shorter and faster version of the game.

Spectators can also enjoy a 7 per cent discount if they purchase tickets to the Singapore leg.

Heading a team of 150 volunteers, Leow, 35, is aiming to dispel the notion that the SCC 7s caters only to raucous revellers.

Singapore national players will be out and about to interact with the public.

On Saturday, a giant screen will be set up for a live screening of the World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand.

Leow has a simple message for the public: "You may not be a rugby fan today, but come experience the SCC 7s, and you will understand what makes our game so special."

•Tickets available from Sistic