Sevens legend Waisale Serevi sets sights on coaching youths in UAE

Matt Jones 7/12/2015
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UAE ambitions: Waisale Serevi (l).

Sevens legend Waisale Serevi may be on his way home following the conclusion of the Dubai Rugby Sevens, but he has not ruled out one day returning on a more permanent basis to coach in the UAE.

Serevi led Joost van der Westhuizen’s J9 Legends to victory in the International Vets competition at The Sevens Stadium on Saturday, J9’s first win after losing the previous two finals.

Currently coaching rugby in America, the man widely regarded as the best sevens player ever says the UAE may be a future destination for him.

“Nothing is impossible. Don’t rule it out,” said Serevi, when asked if he would consider trying to help grow the game in the Emirates as he is doing in the USA. 

“Rugby in 21 years has given me a lot and I would love to be part of anything to help kids learn rugby. I always say you can be taught how to be a better rugby player but the most important thing is to be a better person in life.”

– IRELAND: Insight from Irish camp at Dubai Sevens
– INTERVIEW: New Zealand legend Sonny Bill Williams
– SEVENS: Bolger’s hat-trick helps Quins retain Gulf Men’s crown

Serevi also said he could return to play in Dubai next year and help J9 defend their title, although he is keen to coach a youth team instead of a legends one.

“I have to go home first and take it easy for a while,” he said. 

“I’m not getting any younger but I think I will be back. I’d love to coach an Under-18 team, international or whatever.

"That’s what I want to do. I spoke to one of the officials and maybe next year I’ll coach a youth team. I don’t know which one at the moment, we’ll see what happens.”

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Sir Gordon Tietjens feels Sonny Bill Williams not ready for debut

Matt Jones 7/12/2015
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Wait continues: Sonny Bill Williams will not be a part of Kiwi plans in Cape Town.

The injury crisis engulfing New Zealand following a disappointing performance at the Dubai Rugby Sevens will not rush coach Sir Gordon Tietjens into introducing Sonny Bill Williams into the international sevens fold.

The Kiwis head into the second leg of the 2015-16 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in South Africa this weekend with a string of injuries picked up in the opening round in Dubai, but Tietjens insists All Blacks Rugby World Cup star Williams will not feature in the Cape Town tournament.

Williams flew with the New Zealand squad to the UAE for the inaugural round of the World Series and featured in a non-playing capacity after he was named in Tietjens’ core squad to prepare for the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

– IRELAND: Insight from Irish camp at Dubai Sevens
– INTERVIEW: New Zealand legend Sonny Bill Williams

– SEVENS: Bolger’s hat-trick helps Quins retain Gulf Men’s crown

The legendary sevens coach revealed that Williams was eager to feature in Dubai as the injuries mounted, but he had disappointing news for All Blacks sevens and rugby fans in general.

“No, he’s never played sevens,” replied Tietjens when asked if New Zealand’s horrendous injury list could mean the 30-year-old All Blacks centre being introduced to the shorter format of the game earlier than anticipated.

“I jokingly said to him that he might get to play earlier than we first thought. He said ‘can I do that?’. We’ve got a tournament in South Africa in five days’ time and the bodies have taken a hammering.

“We’ve got a plan for him and we’ll stick to that. He’ll come in really conditioned to play sevens and train with us and then, when it’s time to get him out, we will. 

“That applies to so many others too. Wellington or Sydney they’ll come in because we’ll need them.”

As New Zealand limped into fourth place after being beaten 31-12 by the USA, they did so with just five players on the pitch at the final whistle to compound their injury woes.

They lost Sherwin Stowers in that game to a broken arm, while DJ Forbes, Joe Webber, captain Scott Curry, Tim Mikkelson, Gillies Kaka and Regan Wear were all struck down at some point during the weekend by injury in what Tietjens labelled his worst tournament ever.

The 59-year-old said it even got to the stage where he questioned whether pushing for a high finish in the elite men’s competition was beneficial to his side, although he insisted the thought of forfeiting never crossed his mind.

“We got to a stage in Dubai where we thought whether playing for third was really beneficial. It’s only one point difference (in the standings),” said Tietjens.

“Looking at player welfare, we thought about it and then we lost a guy with a broken arm, so it’s really horrendous. 

“We were never going to walk away from the game. All I did was ask the question ‘are we realistically allowed to field six fit players? Can we do that?’ I had to ask the question.”

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UAE schoolboy stars set for promising future

Matt Jones 6/12/2015
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Rising talent: Ali Khalid (r).

Mukhtar Mekki hopes to one day watch Ali Khalid and his team-mates play on Pitch 1 at The Sevens Stadium in the main World Rugby Sevens Series.

Perhaps Mekki will be proved right and the UAE National Schoolboys final played in front of an impressed main stadium crowd at the Dubai Rugby Sevens on Saturday will serve as a glimpse into the future of Emirati rugby.

– O’DRISCOLL: Ireland legend thrilled by Dubai Sevens
– IRELAND: Insight from Irish camp at Dubai Sevens

– INTERVIEW: New Zealand legend Sonny Bill Williams
– SEVENS: Bolger’s hat-trick helps Quins retain Gulf Men’s crown

One thing’s for sure, on this evidence there is no shortage of young, local talent.

That is particularly true of 18-year-old Khalid, who danced his way to the try-line in the final seconds to touch down and seal a 17-5 win for Dubai Mixed Schools against Rashid School for Boys.

Rashid School actually took the lead in the final but once Dubai Mixed Schools settled into their tricky and skilful style of play, they were difficult to live with.

Competing on the main pitch, scoring in and winning the final and lifting the Trophy is a memory Hamdan Bin Rashed High School pupil Khalid will carry with him forever.

I like this game so much and I hope it will become more and more developed in the UAE – Ali Khalid

“I feel so happy but we are a whole team and the win is down to the team. We are happy that we came back from going behind on the scoreboard,” said Khalid, who hopes for rugby to one day become his country’s most popular sport.

“I am so happy and excited to be here and seeing all these people watching me play. It will be a good souvenir for me,” he said.

“I like this game so much and I hope it will become more and more developed in the UAE and that it becomes the UAE’s most popular sport.”

Team coach and Khalid’s teacher, Mekki, was the man who first introduced the youngster to rugby.

“I am his teacher and brought him to this game. Perhaps we will see him and some of the boys in the main men’s final one day, why not,” he said.

“You saw him, he can be, he is able but he has lots of work to do and must be persistent.

“This is perfect for me to see these boys playing rugby. It’s their first experience and they did it in the best way and I hope they continue this.”

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