Al Ain bring back van Blerk as they look to improve

Matt Jones 25/06/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
The only way is up: Al Ain Amblers.

The South African replaces New Zealander Andrew Rouvi, who led Amblers as they endured a rough return to the top flight of UAE domestic club rugby last season. Amblers won just one of their 18 games all season.

Van Blerk, 51, coached the club in 2012/13 when Amblers first reached the UAE Conference final, but were defeated.

Van Blerk, who played for the Lions and Blue Bulls in his homeland, also made it to the final trials for the South Africa A side in 1985 before a sporting boycott due to Apartheid robbed him of a chance to pull on the Springbok shirt.

His appointment at Amblers is part of a new coaching structure being adopted by the club, with a more unified approach across all teams.

Despite their woes last season, chairman Sean Emmett saw a steady improvement during Rouvi’s reign and insists that Amblers will prove to be a different beast next season.

“We gained a lot of experience in our one season in the Premiership and we think we’ll be able to improve and hopefully string some wins together, and get a bit closer to the other teams,” said the Australian.

Amblers finished bottom of the Premiership but remain in the UAE top flight as Conference champions Sharjah Wanderers have elected to decline promotion.

It is a chance Emmett says the club are desperate to utilise. “We were strong and competitive. Niek watched the last four or five games, so he knows what we need to do,” added Emmett.

“He will bring lots of structure to the game, but his plans will allow players to adapt too. He’s a dominant personality and will bring together the large core of Fijians and expats at the club.”

Emmett paid tribute to Rouvi, who was asked to carry on as coach but chose to step down, although he will remain at the club on the business side of things.

“I encouraged him to have another go, because there was a progressive improvement,” Emmett added.

“He will remain with the club and help us on the business side. He’s a super talented coach but he’s a business guy. He’ll bring in a lot of money and sponsors.”

Van Blerk’s back room team will be completed by Peter Gillmore (set piece), Chris Ebbinkhuysen (open play), Leon Bell (defence) and George Taunga (strength and conditioning). Meanwhile, Nerina Hawkins  has been named the head coach of the club’s women’s team.

Most popular

Related Sections

Henry Paul has high hopes for Jebel Ali Dragons

Matt Jones 22/06/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Paul (r) has had a storied career in rugby.

The 42-year-old enjoyed a stellar playing career in both league and union, representing Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls in Super League as well as Gloucester in the English Premiership.

He’s also earned his coaching spurs since retiring in 2010 – he was part of the Russia coaching set up as the country made its Rugby World Cup debut in New Zealand in 2011.

Paul was introduced to former Dragons player and coach Sean Crombie and Hamish Russell of club sponsor Hesco two years ago where the seeds of his appointment were first sewn.

It was announced in March that Dragons had reached an agreement to sign the Kiwi as head coach for the 2016/17 season, and Paul admitted he has already been made to feel right at home in the Emirates.

“I was impressed by the quality of people and spirit at the club so it was a pretty easy decision to say yes,” Paul told Sport360.

“It didn’t happen for a number of reasons [in 2014] but it has now and I am really excited by the opportunity.”

Paul's international career

  • New Zealand (1995-2001) - Rugby League
  • 24 matches, 121 points
  • England (2002-04) - Rugby Union
  • 6 matches, 6 points

During his playing career, Paul won 24 international rugby league caps for the Kiwis before switching to union later on and making six appearances for the Red Rose.

Although the new domestic season may be three months away, Paul admits he is relishing the chance to make an early mark on the club.

“We’re an amateur club so anyone and everyone is welcome to come and try out for Dragons over the summer,” said Paul.

“We’ll aim to get a couple of trial games organised to give everyone a shot at making what I hope is a competitive squad. I aim to bring solid planning, direction and execution of a style of game to Dragons that suits the players and adapts to the opposition.

“I’ve a fair idea on the type of game I want to play but I don’t know yet how we’re going to put this into practice and until I meet the guys and see them on the pitch, we will initially work on the basics with a twist.

“I need to get my bearings first, feel the sand under my feet and get the first few training sessions done, but I like to attack.”

Jebel Ali won successive trebles in 2012/13 and 2013/14 but have been forced to watch from the sidelines for the last two seasons.

Paul said he’s already had “honest” conversations with the club’s hierarchy.

“I know that last season wasn’t a massive success in terms of results. I have discussed aspects of their season briefly with the coaches and some senior players,” he said. “There was an honesty and recognition of not performing to the standards that Jebel Ali have set.

“Hopefully, we can learn some lessons and aim to improve against the leading teams who seemed to be well coached and who all have a desire to be champions.

Most popular

Abu Dhabi rugby talent Moriou to join Toulouse academy

Matt Jones 20/06/2016
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • Mail
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • G+
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • LinkedIn
Abu Dhabi rugby talent Benoit Moriou is heading to Toulouse’s academy.

Paris-born Benoit Moriou has spent most of his life in the UAE but will head back to his homeland in September where he will combine training with the Top 14 side with his engineering studies at the city’s Catholic Institute of Arts and Crafts (ICAM).

The 18-year-old scrum-half counts former All Blacks stars Byron Kelleher and Dan Carter among his heroes and was spotted playing in Abu Dhabi by compatriot Christian Ramos, who was mental skills coach for the French national team at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

“I am very excited to have the possibility to be trained by professionals who have coached so many stars,” said Moriou, who is aware combining work and play will not be easy.

“It will be a challenge. The school is one of the best in France to become an engineer but also very demanding.”

Although he will represent the club he has supported since he was a boy, Moriou insists his studies will come first.

“I’m convinced the Top 14 is still very far for me, considering for the next two years my priority will be studies, but I am sure I will progress and enjoy my passion at the best level possible,” said the teen talent who was spotted by Ramos on one of his yearly visits to coach kids at Abu Dhabi French, one of several capital city-based schools where Moriou has learned his craft.

He has also played for Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Bats and turned out for Quins’ second team during the 2015-16 season, even ending the campaign in the first team fold.

“I started to play rugby with Harlequins when I was five when Quins were the Bats and Abu Dhabi French did not exist,” added Moriou.

“When I was eight, I joined the newly-created Abu Dhabi French club. I came back to Quins at 12 but continued to train with Abu Dhabi French. I also played school tournaments with the French team and we won the cup at the first Emirates Airline Middle East Schools International Rugby Festival in Dubai in 2012 – the first cup in the history of the club.

“My heart will remain with Quins but I really want to thank the French club for the quality of the coaching and the opportunities they gave me.”

He has previously spent two years in his homeland with the famed Pole Espoir academy, graced by current Les Bleus internationals Wesley Fofana and Alexandre Flanquart, before coming back to the UAE.

Leaving home at 15 is an experience he believes will also stand him in good stead in the future.

“To be far from is family is always difficult, especially at 15,” admitted Moriou. “It was very challenging to play with and against the best French players of my age, but living alone I matured and became independent, things I wouldn’t have got in Abu Dhabi. I encourage every kid who would like to live his dream as I did to do something similar.”

Most popular

Related Sections