New Dubai Hurricanes captain Dave Knight is determined to see his side sitting back at the top table of domestic UAE rugby.
Canes were kings of the Emirates in 2010/11 when they won the treble – UAE Premiership, Gulf Top Six and West Asia Championship. However a few barren years have since followed. In 2014/15 they finished top of the Premiership, only to be blitzed by Abu Dhabi Harlequins in the final.
Their season then declined drastically . They finished fourth and fifth in the Premiership and West Asia Champsionship respectively last season – and Knight knows that is not acceptable.
“I think one of the main reasons I’ve been selected is I set quite high standards for myself and the team,” said the 26-year-old, who was born and raised in the UAE.
“I’m not one to shy away when I don’t think things are acceptable. Things haven’t been acceptable for the last couple of seasons, we know that. I’m here to win every time I play, it’s the only thing I want to do.”
Openside flanker Knight recovered brilliantly from a serious ankle injury which ruled him out for almost the entire 2014/15 campaign to scoop the club’s player of the season award last year.
He was part of Apollo Perelini’s UAE squad that won Division II of the Asia Rugby Championship in Uzbekistan in May, appearing alongside outgoing Canes captain and close friend Daniel Perry, who voluntarily stepped down after two years.
One major reason for optimism at Canes is the changes the club has made off the field this summer, including announcing an exciting new affiliation with Super Rugby giants the Hurricanes earlier this week.
They have also strengthened their entire core, with former England Under-18s and England Universities player Mike Wernham named first team forwards coach, while Simon Seward will coach the second team and act as the club’s strength and conditioning coach.
Knight is excited about the new changes and believes they were vital if Canes had any ambitions of keeping pace with their rival teams.
“We’ve got a great opportunity to perhaps surprise a few teams who might think we’re on the decline,” said Knight, who is entering into his fifth season with Canes.
“Yes, we finished fourth in the UAE Premiership and fifth in the West Asia Championship (last season), but if you look at results, we were always in games.”
Canes lost 42-36 and 39- 26 to Quins and Dubai Exiles respectively in the Premiership and suffered 47-36 and 37-34 defeats to Doha and Quins in the West Asia Championship, so there is a case to make that Canes are not too far away from the elite teams.
Knight added: “Results can be deceiving. Things aren’t as bad as they seem and people have been working really hard in the off-season to improve the structure and develop the club. There’s been a few key appointments which will make us stronger and on our day who’s to say we’re not going to upset everyone.”
“The changes in the off-season are putting us in a position where we’re as close to being professional without actually paying players and it’s important because other clubs are doing it and we don’t want to get left behind.”
“We want Hurricanes to be back at the top where we’re used to, winning all the trophies. We have to go further. It’s all really positive and I’m really confident things will be in place by the start of the season for a successful campaign.”
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