Al Ain bring back van Blerk as they look to improve

Matt Jones - Editor 08:44 25/06/2016
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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.

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