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Gillies Kaka and Rocky Khan will be experiencing the Wellington sevens tournament this weekend as the newest members of the New Zealand team.
With the heat wave hitting us square in the face, it's going to be a rip-roaring hot party in the Cake Tin, and imagine how amped Kaka and Khan will be as they run out on to the field for the first time as players rather than spectators.
In true sevens style, will anyone play the queen of funk-soul Chaka Khan's song I Feel For You and change the opening lyrics slightly to ''Kaka Khan'' to commemorate their first caps in black?Kaka has come into the team from the traditional pathway of playing 15-a-side rugby for Hawkes Bay, while Khan has chosen the specialist sevens track.
They, along with Kurt Baker, have benefited from the demise of others (due to injuries or time out from the rugby lifestyle), and they'll be grabbing their opportunity to impress Gordon Tietjens with both hands. Who wouldn't, with the possibility of becoming a regular member of the team for the IRB sevens series, an increase in wages on the cards, and the Olympics on the horizon?Rocky Khan's selection is based on his talent and hard work as a sevens player but his selection is also indicative of the diverse demographic of New Zealand and is something to be celebrated beyond the rugby field.
Maybe this is a sign of things to come. Rugby has been considered New Zealand's national game for years and, in an ideal world, it would be great if rugby's elite playing ranks represented the diversity of New Zealand's population.
The inclusion of women's sevens at the Olympics took care of gender representation and, for many years, New Zealanders of European/Pakeha, Maori and Pacific Island descent have been well-presented in the 15s and sevens version of the game.
According to the 2006 census, Fijians were the fifth-largest Pacific ethnic group in New Zealand, with a large proportion of the Fijian population living in Auckland.
New Zealand's Asian population is also projected to increase 3.4% a year to reach just under 800,000 by 2026.
Individuals of Asian descent, however, seemed to be missing from the elite ranks of rugby. That is, until Rocky Khan's selection.
Khan is believed to be the first Fijian of Indian ancestry and also the first Rotuman (Rotuma Island is a Fijian dependency) to represent New Zealand in sevens. Amazingly, Khan is not the first player of Rotuman to wear black, as All Black Jono Gibbes beat him to it.
The New Zealand Rugby Union seems to be putting together programmes and initiatives to try to get the Asian population more engaged in rugby, and maybe Rocky Khan will be their poster boy.
Perhaps I feel for you, with some tweaks to the lyrics, could be the theme song for the campaign to get more ethnically diverse individuals playing rugby.
I dare anyone who is going to the sevens to chant the following opening lines from Chaka Khan's hit to show their support for Rocky Khan. As far as chants go this one is pretty easy to remember.-Rocky, Rocky, Rocky, Rocky KhanRocky Khan, Rocky Khan, Rocky KhanRocky Khan, let us rock youLet us rock you, Rocky KhanLet us rock you, that's all we wanna doRocky Khan, let us rock youLet us rock you, Rocky KhanThe lyrics aren't that ground-breaking, but Khan's inclusion as an individual of Fijian Indian and Rotuman descent could be a sign of things to come for the future of rugby, and there needs to be some reflection on this moment.
Of course, Rocky Khan will be focused on playing superb sevens for the team and won't be focusing on anything else. We'll do the contemplating and reflecting for him.
The sevens in Wellington is all about celebrating the diversity of New Zealanders, in all their shapes, sizes, costumes, backgrounds and glory, so why not acknowledge an inkling of that diversity on the sevens pitch, too?