By HUXLEY LOVAI
RUGBY union stalwart Steven Kami wants rugby 7s to be the flagship for promoting the code in the country.
The man, who heads the group and claims to be the duly-elected board of the code’s governing body, said the shorter format was the key to building interest in the rugby league-dominated provinces.
Kami said it was also the only realistic way the Pukpuk brand could return to the heights it once enjoyed in the early 1990s.
This year the national 7s team have the opportunity to qualify as a core nation in the HSBC World 7s Series when it competes at the Hong Kong leg from April 7-9.
“We want to be a genuine threat in qualifying as a core nation in the 7s circuit — that is our immediate goal in 2017,” Kami, a former Pukpuk prop, said.
“In order to do this, we need our men’s and women’s 7s squads to be fully professional — eating, training and sleeping and focusing solely on rugby.
“We are currently speaking to sponsors in order come up with initiatives to achieve this.”
Another major tournament on the horizon for PNG 7s will be the Rugby World Cup 7s tournament taking place in San Francisco next year.
With Oceania receiving two qualifying spots, PNG have a chance to make their World Cup 7s debut.
There would be three aspects to the qualification process, with teams qualified by virtue of their finish at the previous RWC 2013 in Moscow, the HSBC World Rugby 7s Series 2016-17 and through regional competitions.
The eight quarterfinalists from Moscow 2013 (New Zealand, England, Fiji, Kenya, South Africa, Wales, Australia, France) have pre-qualified, along with 2018 hosts USA.
The top four nations from the HSBC World 7s Series 2016-17, excluding these pre-qualified nations, will qualify for RWC 7s 2018.
The remaining 11 places would be filled by teams through regional competitions from June 2017 to April 2018, according to the World Cup Rugby 7s website.
“That means that we really in effect only have to beat Tonga, and it’s a golden opportunity for us to play on the world stage,” Kami said
Depending where they finish in this year’s series, Samoa will be a major obstacle to PNG’s hopes of qualifying.
Kami said that the PNGRFU was interested in hosting the regional qualifiers.
“The state of the pitch at the venues in Port Moresby are better than anything that Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have to offer.
“There are no better venues anywhere else in the Pacific for rugby,” Kami said.
By HUXLEY LOVAI