All-Emirati team ready for Sevens with eye on the future

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Making great strides: Adel Al Hendi.

Following an ambitious and ultimately failed bid to reach the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the UAE reintroduced expatriates to its sevens and 15s teams under former performance manager Roelof Kotze.

Apollo Perelini has continued that trend, while blending in Emirati players, and its worked well with the UAE making strides in both formats of the game.

Perelini has entered an all-Emirati squad into the Dubai Rugby Sevens starting on Thursday and the former dual code star has a clear plan which he claims is only just beginning.

“I am preparing a group of players specifically for sevens development as I look towards the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia,” he said. “The Elite Player Programme will identify future players from under-18’s onwards. It’s just a start.”

Perelini has picked a 12-man squad for the International Men’s Open, kicking off against Middle Eastern Cougars Y on Thursday.

One man selected is Abu Dhabi Saracens winger Adel Al Hendi, who has long been a part of the UAE sevens setups at all levels. He believes the UAE RF’s plans are also progressing.

“I’m happy to be a part of the squad and our aim is to take the division,” said a confident Al Hendi, who believes the future is bright after the UAE Shaheen sides – made up of many players in the UAE squad in Dubai – reached the Plate and Plate Social finals at the Eden Park 7s last month.

“The boys played some good sevens at Eden Park and it bodes well for us this weekend and for Emirati rugby. Up and coming talented players need to be involved in these types of tournaments. The development programmes have set the platform to bring more players into the mix, and with a tidy pool of players, UAE rugby is only going up.”

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Sport360 staff 27/11/2016
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We are giving away two pairs of VIP tickets for men’s finals day (Saturday), which grant winners access to the Crowne Plaza exclusive chalet with overflowing food and beverages throughout the day and great seats at the stadium.

To win this amazing prize, just answer this simple question and be sure to check out our Terms & Conditions below

HOW MANY POINTS ARE AWARDED FOR A TRY IN RUGBY?

TERMS & CONDITIONS

– Tickets should be collected at Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City 

– Winner should provide passport copy + ID and contact number

– Tickets are strictly non-transferable 

– VIP Tickets will be given away for finals day (Saturday, 3 December)

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Venter feels immense pride at UAE selection

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Dubai Exiles make up the majority of Apollo Perelini’s first-ever UAE Under-19 squad that will play in the Asia Rugby Under-19 Championship next month, but flanker Hendre Venter insists there is a real bond among all players in the 25-man squad.

The UAE will play in Division I of the competition, pitting their wits against some of Asia’s finest teams, including hosts the Philippines, Singapore and South Korea.

Venter, who has been starring in the Exiles 2nds team that have won six games from six in the UAE Conference and only sit second behind Jebel Ali Dragons as they have played a game more, will be joined by five clubmates on tour.

Nathan Appleby has been named the UAE’s captain, while Xander Crockart, who earned Exiles’ senior men’s Youth Player of the Year last season after a stellar breakout campaign, is vice captain.

Jerry Kilicanasau, Ratu Leveanasiga and Liam Benstead make up the Exiles cohort, but there will be no strangers when the squad jets out to Manila on December 12.

“I have played with most of the guys since U-9 or U-10, but I know the other guys too because I’ve played against them so many times,” said Venter, who at 17, will be the youngest member on tour.

“We all know each other, we’re all such good friends, so there’s such a good vibe throughout training and games. There’s a lot of team bonding, lots of talking, meeting outside of training. It’s about showing our faces to the world and improving as players and people.

“Apollo is such an unbelievable coach. All of us are learning so much from him, we’re so excited and it’s a great opportunity for all of us and it’s going to be a great time.”

A native of Johannesburg, Venter nevertheless has called the UAE home for the last 12 years, and says it will be a huge honour to pull on the jersey of his adoptive nation.

“I’ve lived here longer than I have in South Africa and it’s obviously a bit better living here than back in South Africa at the moment,” he joked following the Springboks humiliating 20-18 defeat to Italy on Saturday.

“Their rugby’s very bad at the moment. Last weekend wasn’t very fun at all.

“It’s a privilege (to be selected for the UAE). I’ve lived here for the last 12 years so it’s an honour to play for the country I’ve lived in. It’s unbelievable, I still can’t quite believe it, especially being the youngest in the squad too.

“I haven’t lived in South Africa for so long, Dubai is my proper home. It’s the biggest honour I can get.”

UAE squad: Nathan Appleby (captain), Xander Crockart (vice captain), Liam Benstead, Jerry Kilicanasau, Ratu Leveanasiga, Hendre Venter (all Dubai Exiles), Nawaf Al Balooshi, Mohammed Al Marar, Ryno De Bruyn, Sunia Laladidi (Al Ain Amblers), Oakley Mellish (Abu Dhabi Harlequins), Jonathan Rath, Ben Van Rooyen (Arabian Knights), Ali Sajwani (UAE Shaheen), Rory Arthur, Toby Hodges, Max Johnson, Jesse Te Waharau, Mark Tilbrook (Dubai English Speaking College), Kipngeno Chirchir (Dubai College), Joseph Riley (Jumeirah English Speaking School), Khalifa Al Maazmi, Charlie Biddle, Francois Pieterse (Dubai), Sidhant Mehra (Dubai Wasps)

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