The South African was named in UAE performance manager Apollo Perelini’s 25-man squad for the Asia Rugby Championship (ARC) series taking place in Uzbekistan later this month.
The UAE will try to go a step further than they did a year ago and earn promotion from Division II to Division I as they slowly inch themselves back towards Asia rugby’s top table.
The ARC replaced the old Asian Five Nations in 2015 and saw the UAE compete in Division II having been relegated from Division I via a 30-13 defeat to Singapore a year earlier.
They performed admirably last year, defeating Thailand and Chinese Taipei, but missed out on promotion following a narrow 20-19 loss to hosts Malaysia.
Fourie says this year’s squad is determined not to miss out again.
“I have been involved in the international circuit for a long time and feel confident that this will be the year to bring back some silverware,” said the 34-year-old Jebel Ali Dragons full-back.
“There is a nice buzz among the players. Every year the competition in the clubs and players is improving which is definitely a step in the right direction for UAE rugby.
“Apollo had some tough decisions to make this year in selecting 25 players as everyone at training is quality and all played Premiership rugby. I think he has selected the best possible team to represent us in Uzbekistan.”
Fourie first pulled on the UAE jersey in 2011 and is one of several players picked after impressive
performances for the national sevens team in the Asia Rugby Sevens Series (ARSS) during the last 12 months.
“It has always been a honor for me to play for the UAE, from the start, since 2011,” added Fourie.
“I am passionate about the game and will treasure every opportunity to represent my second home,” he added.
“A lot of the sevens players have also pushed on from the last tour to play 15s, with the likes of Niall Statham, Imad Reyal, Jaen Botes, Ian Overton and myself having built good friendships on and off the field.”
Fellow Dragon Statham will lead the team in their semi-final tie against the Uzbeks on May 18 and hopefully into the final three days later against either Guam or Thailand after being named captain by Perelini, something he also did during the ARSS. The Scotsman, like Fourie, is also confident of success.
“I’m delighted to be selected and it’s a huge honour to captain both sides,” said the 30-year-old flanker.
“There are some great players in the side so it’s a privilege to lead them, I’m really confident we can achieve promotion.”
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The result might not have been what UAE Rugby performance manager Apollo Perelini would have wanted, but the strength of their opponents will have stood them in good stead ahead of meeting Guam, Thailand and Uzbekistan in Division II in Tashkent in just over two weeks.
The action was to and fro during a free-scoring encounter, with Jacques Benade’s Barbarians only running away with the match with three tries inside the final five minutes at Dubai Sports City.
Up until then it had been 29-29 with 10 minutes remaining before the late surge from a strong team selected from a host of the UAE Premiership’s six clubs, including Dubai Exiles, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, Abu Dhabi Saracens, Al Ain Amblers and Dubai Hurricanes.
The Barbarians outscored the UAE by eight tries to five, with the UAE’s Imad Reyal and the Baa Baas’ Ed James each touching down twice. Ed Armitage, Durandt Gerber, Ryan Rapallo, Sean Carey, Viriniki Leveanasiga and Stephen Ferguson also scored for the Baa Baas, with Ian Overton, Jaen Botes and Ben Blamire getting the other scores for the UAE.
Perelini will now trim his squad down to a 25-man touring team over the weekend before they leave for Tashkent on May 14.
Thailand have replaced Singapore in the competition after they were reinstated to Division I following Kazakhstan’s withdrawal this week.
Van Rooyen’s primary task will be to oversee the implementation of World Rugby’s Get into Rugby (GiR) programme among Asia Rugby union members, working closely with these unions to ensure their GiR action plans are in place and conform to World Rugby guidelines.
He will also oversee the integration of World Rugby’s ‘Impact Beyond’ programme which focuses on activating rugby-influenced activities in the lead-up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to be hosted in Japan.
A highly successful programme across the globe, World Rugby’s Get into Rugby has been embraced by the UAERF since ithe federation’s inception (in 2011) and found the programme to be a valuable tool to grow the game in local communities that required established structures and pathways to grow the game.
Speaking about his new role, Van Rooyen said: “It is indeed an honour to serve the greater Asia Rugby community through this role. I see a bright future for rugby in Asia and I am looking forward to working with the various unions (around Asia) to realise the dream of ‘introducing rugby to one million new players across the continent’.
“Our successes at UAERF have prepared me for this opportunity, and I can only express my deepest appreciation for the visionary leadership and support I have received from the Board and all the members of the UAERF team.”
Asia Rugby Honorary Secretary General and UAE Rugby Secretary General, Qais Al Dhalai commented: “We are very proud Ben has been recognised for his impact on growing the game at local grass roots level, and subsequently selected by Asia Rugby to take on this important role of introducing the game across Asia.
“All at the UAERF wish to thank Ben for his untiring, successful efforts in delivering the GiR programme and his commitment to our Player Pathway Programme. We wish Ben the very best and will be watching the progress of Get into Rugby across Asia with great interest.”