Roelof Kotze to step down as UAE national team head coach

Matt Jones 3/10/2015
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The 45-year-old is to take up a position as amateur rugby manager with the Pumas.

Roelof Kotze will step down from his role as UAE national team head coach and performance manager after the final leg of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series in Sri Lanka later this month.

The South African’s departure after nearly two years in the job was announced yesterday, with the 45-year-old to take up a position as amateur rugby manager with the Pumas, who play in the Currie Cup Premier Division in his homeland.

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Kotze believes the UAE have developed as a rugby nation in his time in the role and he is determined to go out on a high by securing a spot in Asia’s top eight sevens nations when the third and final leg of the Series is played in Colombo between October 10-11.

After claiming ninth place in China on the Series’ opening leg at the start of September, the UAE finished sixth in Thailand a week ago, putting Kotze’s mixed band of Emirati and expatriates on the cusp of sevens glory.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here and I would like to think the UAE has come forward as a rugby nation in that time,” Kotze told Sport360.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with the players and coaches. The guy’s have really made progress.

“The local guys have stepped up and there’s quite a few playing at a higher level now than they’ve played before. We’ve worked really hard on that and we’ve set up the Shaheen as a proper programme, with a team now playing in the 15s league.

“It was a difficult start here. There were some old loyalties to associations and federations but it’s all changed and the whole rugby community has bought into what we’ve tried to achieve.”

Earlier this year, Kotze also led the UAE Test team to two victories in Division II of the Asia Rugby Championships against Chinese Taipei and Thailand.

They missed out on promotion to Division I by the slimmest of margins, a 20-19 for hosts Malaysia sending them up at the UAE’s expense, but it was an improvement on the previous season when defeat to Singapore had seen them relegated from Asia’s second tier.

“It’s been very rewarding in that sense and the success the Test team has had this year and now the sevens team too, they are the cherries on the top,” added Kotze.

“The national side started off badly last year, but we’ve made amends this year. The players and clubs have really bought into what we’re trying to achieve and I think that’s why we had success this year in the Test matches.

Former Samoa dual code international rugby star Apollo Perelini, who was brought in on a temporary basis for the Asia tour in May, will now assume head coaching responsibilities for the national 15s side.

Entering the top eight of sevens nations in Asia has long been a dream of Kotze and he admits there are both personal and collective gains to achieve in Colombo next weekend.

“With the sevens, when we played last season with a full on Emirati squad the guys were definitely making progress. We were starting to see the benefits, but the expats added that little bit of experience we didn’t have,” he said.

“That’s taken us over the top and we’ve done really well. We’d been hoping for top eight and where we’re sitting now is sixth so that’s not what we expected. The boys are now working very hard because they want to finish the job next week.

“I also want to go out on a high too, absolutely. It becomes a far more important tournament than it perhaps was when we started planning the season.

“It was ‘let’s get to the top eight and do well’. Now it’s the last one I’ll be doing and I want to end on a high and the team has higher expectations than we had before.

“I think we’ve sent this ship of ours onto a route that can be very successful in the future.”

“We are very proud of this appointment for Roelof,” said UAE Rugby Federation secretary general Qais Al Dhalai.

“The Pumas sought him out, highlighting to us that his experience with developing our Emirati players, as well as his efforts with the national teams (15’s, men’s 7’s and Ubder-19’s), combined with his solid background and qualifications are what they need in their drive to grow their union, and its players.

“We wish him the very best for a successful future and will be keenly watching the growth of the Pumas.”

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Fluent Exiles blow away Hurricanes to take Dubai derby

Matt Jones 3/10/2015
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Too good: Exiles (black).

A much-changed Exiles earned the Dubai bragging rights as they beat Hurricanes 26-9 in the city derby on Friday night.

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After a scrappy 14-5 triumph against Jebel Ali Dragons on opening night, new head coach Jacques Benade was happy to see a more fluid performance from his men against Canes, who had swept to a 32-14 win against Al Ain Amblers a week ago.

Exiles built an early 9-0 lead at 7he Sevens thanks to three Durandt Gerber penalties. Canes reduced the gap to 9-6 with two penalties of their own before Exiles clicked into gear.

Scrum-half Ed Armitage scored the game’s first try while centre Kenneth du Plessis, one of a whole host of new names Benade has introduced, also went over, with Gerber converting both and adding another penalty for a 16-point haul.

Prior to the game Benade had labelled his side as underdogs, so he was delighted with his side’s performance.

“Two from two, which is brilliant for us. Perhaps we were maybe a bit more structured and clever,” said the South African. “The backs played really well and our scrum and line-out was excellent, it was a good all-round performance.”

Benade is refusing to get carried away though and is sticking to his plan of wanting to win each game as it comes, which is probably a sensible idea as Exiles now face five away games on the bounce, starting with successive trips to Abu Dhabi where they face Saracens next week before facing Harlequins in two weeks’ time.

“I don’t think we would have been given a chance beforehand so maybe the lads will start believing now in what we want to do,” said Benade. “I’m delighted to see that the hard work is starting to come off and I’m delighted with this win.”

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McFarlane wants more from Quins despite heavy win over Dragons

Matt Jones 3/10/2015
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Powering through: Quins.

Mike McFarlane insists Abu Dhabi Harlequins have more gears to go through, which is a scary thought considering they torched Jebel Ali Dragons 35-7 on Friday night.

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On this form the new-look Quins could take some stopping, McFarlane’s men making it back-to-back wins in the UAE Premiership, scoring five tries in a game that became a romp in the second half.

The comprehensive nature of victory had not looked likely in a poor first half, littered with handling errors from both teams.

It was almost half an hour until the first points of the game were scored, Brian Geraghty stealing possession from a Dragons’ ruck and sprinting the short distance to touch down.

The hosts were level before the break, Xander van der Westhuizen cutting a brilliant line to puncture Quins’ defence and go over.

Quins responded immediately though and led 12-7 at half-time when a great break by full-back Alastair Johnson sent William Umu through.

A storming run from Geraghty put replacement Matt Smith in at the corner six minutes into the second half and Dragons could probably see the writing on the wall when flanker Ben Blamaire was sin-binned for a kick to the head of Alastair Johnson which ended his night.

Five minutes later and it was all over with the night’s best try. Quins turned the ball over inside their own 22 and winger Max Trimble showed fantastic feet and lightening pace to scorch 80 metres for a bonus point-clinching fourth try.

Quins put the gloss on victory when Umu crashed through several tackles before offloading to debutant Augustin Arias, the Argentine prop touching down for his side’s fifth score.

For McFarlane, victory capped a brilliant week, daughter Madison was born on Wednesday morning.

“She’s amazing, she’s beautiful, but I’m absolutely wiped,” he said. “They came home this morning so I went to pick them up from the hospital, took them home and got them settled then straight off to rugby.”

Despite the comfortable win, McFarlane thinks there is more to come from his side.

“At times we showed at our fluent best we can rip teams apart,” he said. “We played some clinical rugby and were relentless. We’ve just beaten Dragons with a bonus point and if anyone had offered us that at the start we’d take it.

“We’ve got so many more gears to go through though. If we can beat them with a bonus point and only playing at 70 per cent, there’s more to come.”

Dragons counterpart Bruce Pendrey took positives from the performance.

“The Premiership is a fantastic competition and it’s a long road ahead with a lot of games. We’ll be playing until March or April so we’re building and strengthening the squad,” he said.

“All credit to Quins, they’re a fantastic team and you can tell they’re going to be at the top come the end of the season.”

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