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Korean rugby coach aims for stars

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/08/2016 Angelo Risso

Jung Samyoung loves rugby for many reasons.

The game is fast, tough and unforgiving on the body.

Team spirit is prized, with players doing all they can for their mates.

And the taste of victory is one of the sweetest in the world.

But above all, Jung loves rugby because you get out precisely what you put in.

Jung, 48, is head coach of the nine-month-old Hyundai Glovis Rugby Club, based in the South Korean city of Incheon.

In football-mad Korea, the sport is easy to overlook.

Barely 1000 people play rugby across all levels of the Korean game, while only four teams play at a professional level.

Because so few senior rugby clubs exist, there is no Korean league - only invitational tournaments played periodically.

After a period of northeast Asian dominance in the late 1980s, South Korea has since been eclipsed by Japan as the powerhouse of regional rugby.

But Jung, who has spent his life as a rugby evangelist in his homeland, hopes to change that.

To do so, he and his Hyundai Glovis troops journeyed 9600 kilometres to Auckland, where they immersed themselves in the rugby way of life.

Jung and his side recently finished off a three-week tour of south Auckland, learning at the feet of provincial side Counties Manukau.

Hyundai Glovis were put through their paces by Steelers coaches in all aspects of the game - general attack, defensive structure, lineouts and scrums.

The side also gained crucial match practice against club outfits Waiuku and Papakura, as well as Counties Manukau B.

Hyundai Glovis lost to Waiuku and Counties Manukau B in their opening two fixtures before trouncing Papakura 55-5 in their final game.

They also got to watch the world champion All Blacks smash Northland and the Steelers in Pukekohe a fortnight ago, before enjoying a private training session with ex-England boss Stuart Lancaster.

Jung hopes the tour to the Shaky Isles will prove beneficial for both his club and Korean rugby as a whole.

"That's the reason we came to New Zealand, so we could experience top class rugby," Jung tells NZ Newswire.

"To get some great experience and play practice matches as well, we're very happy."

Jung was pleasantly surprised by his side's progression over the three weeks on Kiwi soil, gradually turning their youthful enthusiasm into on-field awareness.

His side arrived playing rugby as if by rote - they were unadventurous and stuck to strictly defined roles on the field.

All forwards ran into all breakdowns, and outside backs always kicked when inside the 22-yard line.

But by the end of the three weeks, and with much Steelers guidance, they had enough confidence to play an attractive passing game all over the park.

"Sides here in New Zealand, you've got to take a few risks and back yourself, back your skills no matter where you are," Steelers head coach Darryl Suasua tells NZ Newswire.

"What hopefully they went away with was that their positions were interchangeable, and getting a really good shape on attack."

Suasua, who took Hyundai Glovis for several sessions alongside his Counties Manukau colleagues, says the Korean outfit absorbed an extraordinary amount in such a short time.

The players were courteous and diligent, and while several areas of their game needed considerable work, their kicking and pass-catch games were surprisingly strong.

A few players could even make the provincial grade with a bit of polishing and regular high-quality football.

"Because they didn't have a lot of history, they took to things really quickly," Suasua says.

"They didn't have anything else to compare it to."

The arrival of Hyundai Glovis on Kiwi shores follows the June announcement of ex-Waikato boss John Walters as the first ever foreign-born Korean national team coach.

Jung, who also serves a director of skills development for Korea Rugby, says Walters' arrival has been a breath of fresh air for the code.

He hopes Walters' work will drive his nation into the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

"It's not a far-fetched goal if we work hard," Jung says.

"The image of John is quite a good one because obviously coming from New Zealand, we know there's quite a bit we can learn.

"If everyone works together, it'll definitely help."

Hyundai Glovis returned home to Incheon on Saturday.

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