Stephen Ferguson to stay with Dubai Exiles

Matt Jones - Editor 01:28 06/07/2016
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Ferguson staying put

Stephen Ferguson may have been new to UAE rugby last season but he could have predicted that Jacques Benade would lead the region’s oldest rugby club back to success. Dubai Exiles were founded in 1966 and will celebrate their 50th anniversary later this year.

But times have been tough in recent years. All that changed when former Emerging Springbok flyhalf Benade came in as director of rugby a year ago.

Their upturn was swift in terms of silverware earned, with Exiles winning the double in 2015/16 as they won UAE Premiership and West Asia Championship titles. Ferguson, the rampaging Northern Irish back-row forward, was a key player for the men in black.The 27-year-old knew that coming to the Emirates at the behest of a man who had previously chased his signature while coaching Malone and Ballymena (Ferguson played for Derry then) would pay dividends for both him and Exiles.

“I know Jacques from playing back home,” said former Ulster academy graduate Ferguson.

“One year when I was in the Ulster academy I moved to Ballymena where he was coach. I’ve played against him every season for maybe the last eight years.”

“I know exactly how Jacques works. Teams he’s coached were always hard to break down, so I knew coming out here, whatever scenario he was coming into, he was always going to rectify it.”

Although the two had never teamed up previously, Ferguson said he jumped at the chance to join Benade in Dubai.

“Jacques was looking to send me to Malone for the last few seasons. He rang me and asked: ‘Do you want to come out to Dubai and give it a go?’ I thought: ‘Why not? Get a job, play for Exiles’. And he was doing it so I thought I’d take a chance.”

“I was doing nothing, just playing for Derry. I played in the Ireland Club team last year. I thought I wasn’t going to make it as a professional back home so instead I decided to try and come and make some money, and what better place than Dubai.”

It proved to be a superb decision. The imposing Ferguson was one of the standout stars last season, not just for Exiles, but in domestic UAE rugby as a whole.

Marrying brute strength with almost unheralded athleticism for a forward, Ferguson filled in seamlessly at any position he was asked to occupy in the pack, whether it was Number 8, flanker or even lock.

Originally signed up until April, Ferguson revealed he has already decided to stay for another season.

“It was an unbelievable first season in the UAE,” said Ferguson. “To win two trophies is pretty indescribable. It’s more than I could have hoped for.”

“From 1-15, every position, we were pure class. It was weird coming over here not knowing what the standard was like but as soon as I met the boys, it was like being in my home town.”

“I know this year is the 50th year (of the club). So, I’m going to stay another year.”

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