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This evening Matt Hawkins will run on to face England in the opening match of the Nelson Mandela Bay 7s in South Africa.
It will be a record-setting run, as Hawkins will appear in his 27th IRB tournament, breaking Jone Naqica’s mark for the most by a USA player. That total isn’t especially large; 15 players in South Africa claim more, with Uale Mai about to play in his 73rd. But it is still a record.
With players playing part-time, and not full-time professionals, it is very difficult to be available for every tournament and also avoid injury. Hawkins has had those challenges, and has been a stalwart for the team for several years now.
For the Polar Bear, it’s a big moment to set the record in the land of his birth, and he deserves accolades for the achievement. Those accolades may not last long, however, as Shalom Suniula sits at 24 tournaments, Mark Bokhoven is at 23, and Zack Test is at 20. Both are younger than Hawkins and could well bypass his mark soon. In fact, if they remain with the team for the next couple of seasons, they could top 40.
Both Suniula and Test have an excellent shot at breaking Naqica’s other USA record, 400 points in IRB tournaments, the most by an Eagle. And Jovesa Naivalu’s long-held record of 47 tries is in jeopardy, too. Hawkins has 41, and Test, who led the USA in tries in 2010-2011, has 39.