Fourie believes Henry Paul will get Dragons back firing

Matt Jones - Editor 00:15 13/09/2016
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Ryno Fourie is targeting success.

The South African full-back was part of the UAE set-up last season that often saw him called away to play for the 15s or sevens teams at the expense of Dragons.

Fourie featured for the UAE in Uzbekistan in May as Apollo Perelini’s men dismantled the hosts and Thailand on their way to storming back into Division I of the Asia Rugby Championship.

However, as the UAE flourished, Dragons floundered. Their unceremonious fall from grace continued as they finished seventh in the West Asia Championship and sixth in the UAE Premiership – earning just five wins from 18 games all season.

However, with former dual code star Henry Paul now at the helm, Fourie believes Dragons can rekindle the fire that burned so bright not that long ago.

“I think we have a good chance this year to get some silverware, hopefully in the club league and sevens,” said 34-year-old Fourie of the club that won back-to-back domestic trebles as recently as 2012/13 and 2013/14.

“There has been good support from everyone at the club and it feels like there has been some fire blown back into the Dragons belly which is nice to see.”

Under the stewardship of Bruce Pendrey last year, Dragons began to turn the tide after a truly woeful treble defence the previous campaign.

With Paul joined by former Arabian Gulf international Jonny MacDonald as backs coach, ex-Newcastle Falcon Andy Buist taking charge of the forwards and former Abu Dhabi Harlequins and Doha stalwart Jamie Clarke also lending his expertise, expectations are understandably even higher going into the new campaign.

Hoping to light a fire under Dragons

  • Just five wins from 18 last season for Dragons (2 wins, 8 defeats in UAE Premiership; 3 wins, five defeats in West Asia Championship)
  • 3 bonus points in WAC - joint lowest of nine teams
  • 166 points scored in 10 Premiership games - 16.6 per game, the lowest total of all six teams

“It’s good to have some proper structures in place now with Henry Paul,” added Fourie, who featured as Dragons thrashed UAE Conference champions Sharjah 72-12 last week in a pre-season friendly.

“The trial against Sharjah was good and to see what all the new boys can do. There are a lot of new quality players and recruits this season and this is what we lacked over the last few seasons.

“Pre-season was tough as usual this time of the year but the nice thing about it was that we had enough guys to do some attack and defence drills which helps.

“There is a lot of competition this year for positions and I think that’s healthy. Henry is doing a great job with Jonny MacDonald in selecting the right guys.

“It’s also good to see that some of the old boys are still coming down to training to have a go.

“After a break for EID we will be back into it as we have Bahrain away for our first league game.”

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RAK Rocks host Arabian Knights on new sand pitch

Matt Jones - Editor 01:17 12/09/2016
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Journey begins: RAK Rocks finally have their own pitch.

It was an historic moment for the Community League Rocks, more familiarly and affectionately known as the Goats.

James Parker’s side head into the 2016/17 season as proud homeowners, having previously called Sharjah Wanderers’ pitch – some 85 km away – home in recent years.

The home team were held to nil against Conference side Knights, but the fact they were able to host their opponents at all was a leap forward for the club and hard-working chairman Mike Silvester.

“We played on it and the pitch held up well,” said the Englishman.

“We got beat but it wasn’t the point. It was just a case of us playing on there. Hopefully we can now get permission to put some cabins and containers up for changing rooms so we can get changed in air conditioned rooms instead of under gazebos.”

Travelling north to take on the Goats this season will certainly be an experience for away teams.

The unique experience will continue post-match too, where instead of showers, the sand can easily be removed by throwing yourself into the Arabian Gulf 200 metres from the pitch.

“Everyone got the sand off them by jumping in the sea at the end of the game. There’s not many pitches where you could do that,” said Silvester.

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Al Ain Amblers upbeat despite exodus

Matt Jones - Editor 23:36 10/09/2016
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Emosi Ratuvecanaua (r) is one of several players who have left Amblers this summer.

Amblers have been ravaged in recent months, with nearly their entire contingent of talented Fijians departing the Garden City for greener pastures elsewhere.

Niko Volavola and Sakiusa Naisau  joined the Henry Paul revolution at Jebel Ali Dragons. Esekaia Dranibota, Emosi Ratuvecanaua and Siri Laladidi have all been snapped up by Abu Dhabi Harlequins.

Teenage talent Jerry Kilikinasau, meanwhile, left to join double winners Dubai Exiles.

Amblers also saw head coach Andrew Rouvi step down to be replaced by South African Niekie van Blerk. Despite seeing last season’s squad torn apart, Emmett says Amblers must move on.

“We’re all passionate about rugby and sport and we want these guys to do well and enjoy their rugby, so I wish them all the best,” the Australian said of the departures.

“We’re changing a few things ourselves and we’re moving forward. We’re getting on with things.”

Van Blerk, the new man at the helm, embarked on a recruitment drive while back home in South Africa over the summer, which has reaped some reward.

Jerry Kilicanasau, making his Dubai Exiles debut on Friday night, is one of a slew of names to leave Al Ain

Compatriots Brandan Rieck and Erwin Ambrose will arrive at the club just after Eid, while Fijian duo Sekonaia Kalou and Tevita Ratuva have also been acquired. Club captain Kini Natuna has also been retained.

“Niekie took the package to them when he was home in the summer and I’ve Skyped with them and told them about the rugby side, so we’re happy and positive,” added Emmett, who feels emerging from a season of struggle in 2015/16 will have helped the club.

Al Ain toiled, having made the step up to the Premiership. They won just only once all season, against Muscat in January, losing 17 of their 18 encounters across the West Asia Championship and UAE Premiership.

Their cause has been blighted further by the loss of several big names, but Emmett is dwelling on the positives.

“People have got to move on and we wish them all the best,” he said.

“We feel we’ve grown from last year, our first year in the Premiership. We soldiered our way through.

“We missed one game last season where we couldn’t get numbers for and there were lengthy discussions within the club and committee about staying or leaving the Premiership.

“Ultimately things don’t happen overnight. I spoke with chairmen at other clubs. With Exiles it took them a number of years to get where they are today, the force of UAE rugby.

“Our community is very different to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, it’s an older community where people have families. It will take us a different strategy to build our rugby but everybody’s positive about it.

“We’ve got a new head coach, we’ve restructured our whole set-up, especially for our senior men, and we’ve had some good numbers at training and our trial match against Dubai Hurricanes at the weekend, and everyone’s bonding well.

“We had 40 at the trial match at the weekend, 50 at training last week, so numbers are good. We’re holding our breath we can get visas sorted for guys coming in to replace our departed Fijian stars and it might be a veteran sides running on the first weekend against Saracens.”

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