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“What a virgin experience it’s been!” says the former Springboks hero.

Habana has spent his final day here racing kids, getting tackled and throwing a ball around as part of sevens series sponsor HSBC’s Try Rugby initiative.

Alongside the Hong Kong Rugby Union, the scheme is designed to get the game on more school curriculums here and encourage more children to play the game.

Over the last few years, Try Rugby has introduced some 20- to 30,000 kids to the sport, according to Habana.

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However, it is the ex-wing who has felt like a wide-eyed child for most of the weekend.

He goes on: “Coming into the city on Wednesday night there’s an immediate energy you feel, driving in from the airport.

“You watch this tournament on TV, growing up, and you saw the greats — the Jonah Lomus, the Christian Cullens, the Eric Rushes and Waisale Serevis — who became icons of this tournament.

“Hong Kong is the home of (modern) sevens rugby and to see the sport grow since the tournament has been on the go, to experience the atmosphere, that South Stand madness, has been special.

“To be with HSBC and guys like George Gregan and Brian O’Driscoll, who are legends in their own right, they also have some interesting stories to tell about Hong Kong!

“I haven’t quite surpassed Brian’s crowd surfing on his first tour here, but it’s been epic. The vibe, the energy and the passion of the crowd is something remarkable.”

The Bok great has been impressed by the athletes involved in the sporting spectacle — and it is an historic leg of the Sevens World Series, with Fiji men winning here for the fifth year in a row and Brazil women displaying true legacy by winning their qualifier event to be on the full-time circuit next season, almost four years after hosting the Olympic Games in Rio.

Ireland men also win their qualifier, an emotional moment for a national side that spent years in the sevens wilderness.

The action is often jaw-slackeningly frenetic. Habana never had the chance to play here, but there is a hint of jealousy.

Yet as the South African mentions the South Stand there, you may get a flash of recognition — isn’t that the crazy, packed-out stand, with everyone in costume? Is it noisy?

You don’t know the half of it.

‘Bucket list’

As he is asked whether he’s seen anything like this before, a smile darts across athletics icon Michael Johnson’s face.

“I follow the sevens and I’ve been to Dubai before, but no, this is my first time at the Hong Kong Sevens.”

The four-time Olympic gold medalist is in Hong Kong to work with the event’s official charity partner, Laureus, to help with their Sport for Good programs.

READ: Fiji beats France to win record fifth straight Hong Kong title
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But the charity’s box shares a corner with the South Stand. What Johnson does not mention is that just seconds before, there was pandemonium in there.

Set to the soundtrack of Bohemian Rhapsody, cup after cup of (presumably) beer is sent into the skies — voices rise even higher. “Nothing really matters” seems like an all-too-fitting lyric for the carefree crowd.

Every year the South Stands draws fans like a magnet. When Habana says visiting Hong Kong “has been pretty high on the bucket list for some time” he mentions the South Stand in the same breath (him, O’Driscoll and Gregan all downed pints on front of that raucous crowd, naturally).

By 9.30am on the Saturday of the sevens, the South Stand is full. No more room. But the queue to get in — should anyone wish to opt out of the party in there — has already formed.

At 10am, we talk with ‘Brad’, who won’t reveal his real name, but is identifiable by the Where’s Wally costume he has on. There are a few other Wallys peppered through the line.

It’s Brad’s first time. He is prepared to be at the back, just to say he’s been in there. He is optimistic the wait won’t be long. But some of his mates were preparing for this South Stand visit at 6.30am.

For the teams that get knocked out of the tournament, in either the main event or the qualifiers, the initial instinct for many is to head towards that stand. When Ireland win their qualifier, many zero in on the section as quickly as possible.

Second division?

The Little Magician, Serevi, is here, trying to coach the Russian men’s team back into the Sevens World Series. Arguably the greatest sevens player of all time, Serevi knows a thing or two about the game.

“I just want to thank Hong Kong rugby, because without the Hong Kong Sevens I believe Sevens couldn’t be in this place,” he tells the South China Morning Post.

“They are the ones that have driven it up from being the Hong Kong Sevens, then the Series, then we went to the IOC to bid for rugby, because it’s so interesting, and then now it is in the Olympics.”

He is right; Hong Kong often feels like the engine for sevens. Yet, if you are hunting a place at the top of the sport for a full season, as Serevi’s Russia hope to be, there is only one option.

Hong Kong hosts the only stand-alone qualifying event. You can plan a whole season around one event that decides your fate for the next term. Many want a second division of the Sevens World Series. Including World Rugby vice-chairman and chairman of sevens, Gus Pichot.

“The biggest objective for the next cycle is to have a second competition, and we are working very hard for that,” says Pichot on the second day of competition.

“Where it is going to be held is still under discussion and it is part of a broader discussion but we decided in the Executive Committee (ExCo) strategic plan that part of the resources, money, is there to cover the expansion of the circuit for a second tier.

“I don’t like to call it a second tier but it would be a different tournament that will provide access to other countries that don’t play regularly and they have a sevens program.”

As World Rugby prepare for key strategic meetings in Dublin, many hope that the lesser visited sevens nations get their shot as host.

Going green

In the Laureus box, Johnson smiles again when he says that clearly he would like the USA men to win this event.

After all, the Eagles have shaken up the established order this season, leading the table in a season where the top four automatically qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

As you can tell from the accounts of those above, new experiences have become a bit of a theme.

Fitting, then, that at this event we see innovative light-up rugby posts that turn green when a conversion, penalty kick or even drop-goal is successful.

The Hong Kong union want to go greener still, with revelers encouraged to purchase reusable pint mugs, rather than collecting and then chucking away plastic tumblers. They want to significantly reduce waste.

And yet, some things here never change. Newbies and first-time fans may not know exactly how it will feel, but they know they are in for a good time. And everyone knows that Fiji come to play.

In the final there are offloads over the head, yellow cards dished out and mighty runs from players like Aminiasi Tuimaba.

After their 21-7 over France, Fiji coach Gareth Baber dedicates the victory to the victims of the atrocities in New Zealand in March, in which 50 people perished and 50 more were injured. During the game the Flying Fijians are just as classy.

They are just seven points behind USA in the standings and with three legs left to play, the rest of the season should be just as energetic as a sing along to Queen.

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