UAE performance manager Roelof Kotze has named six new caps in the starting XV for Wednesday’s Asian 5 Nations Division I clash with Singapore in Dubai.
Kotze will take charge of his first Test match since arriving in the Emirates, just over two months ago, at 7he Sevens in what is a winner-takes-all clash, with the loser relegated from the second tier of Asian rugby.
Adam Telford, one of three new faces in the forward pack, has been handed the captaincy as the UAE embark on a new era under the South African.
Second-row Joe Cooper and flanker Jay Danielson will also be representing their adopted country for the first time.
Emirati young player of the year, Adel Al Hendi, takes his place on the right wing and is joined in the back line by fellow debutants Neil Pommerel and Charlie Sargent.
Of the five Emiratis in the 24-man squad named earlier this week, three have been named in the starting line-up with relative stalwarts Cyrus Homyoun and Mohannad Shaker taking their place alongside Al Hendi.
1. Riaan Boshoff 2. Pete Sampson 3. Graham Murphy 4. Mark Weissenborn 5. Joe Cooper 6. Mohannad Shaker 7. Jay Danielson 8. Adam Telford 9. Gareth Armstrong 10. Chris Burch 11. Charlie Sargent 12. Jono Bester 13. Neil Pommerel 14. Adel Alhendi 15. Cyrus Homayoun.
Roelof Kotze is optimistic about the UAE’s chances of retaining their Asian 5 Nations Division I status having named 12 new caps in his 24-man squad for this week’s visit of Singapore.
The UAE will begin a new era at 7he Sevens on Wednesday as the South African takes charge of his first Test match.
The equation is simple for the hosts as they prepare for their only competitive 15-a-side game of 2014; win and stay up, lose and slip to a second successive relegation.
“I’m very happy I think we’ve got a very decent squad and we’re pretty ready for Wednesday night,” performance manager Kotze said.
“From where we started this year when I knew nobody, guys have come out and shown they were keen to be involved. I think we’ve got a fairly decent side.
“I think it’s going to be an interesting game, obviously because we don’t know a lot about what Singapore are going to bring to the party but I think it’s going to be an interesting game.
“We’ve been working very hard on aspects of our game and if we can bring that on Wednesday night we should be very competitive and hopefully come away with the win.”
Kotze’s first squad in charge contains five Emiratis, including Adel Al Hendi who picked up the best young Emirati player prize at last week’s UAE Rugby Annual Awards.
And ahead of Wednesday’s Test, Kotze is happy with what has been achieved since he arrived in Dubai in February.
“From a squad point of view I think we’ve laid down a few markers in terms of what is expected for you to play for us. You’ve got to commit to the side, you’ve got to be at training, you’ve got to pull your weight if you want to play for the UAE,” he added.
“We’ve got a young squad and I think it’s a good start for us with new young guys coming through who want to be involved in the UAE national side, without expectation.”
A double from flying full-back Douglas Steele helped Abu Dhabi complete a clean sweep of the two-part Bill McLaren Foundation All Stars Challenge against Dubai.
The capital side claimed a 24-19 win at a sweltering Dubai Sports City pitch, in a surprisingly gritty charity match that pitted invitational sides from the two cities.
Abu Dhabi’s victory came despite going down to 13 men temporarily, after Phil Brady and Adam Crossley received yellow cards either side of the interval for slowing the ball down.
The fast-paced, committed play saw the rugby season end in competitive fashion.
Abu Dhabi player-coach Alistair Thompson hoped the fundraising event would become a permanent fixture.
“I absolutely hope this will be an annual thing,” the Abu Dhabi Saracens flanker told Sport360°. “It is a nice end to the season, as it is about playing at a higher level and that is something rugby players should aspire to.
“People say Abu Dhabi is Dubai’s little brother, and to get one over them is a good feeling. The try we scored in the first few minutes was ‘champagne rugby’, and that settled some nerves.”
Although there was no repeat of last Friday’s 10-try gala at Zayed Sports City, Friday’s game started with a bang as Abu Dhabi Harlequins winger Rob Buaserau showed his trademark pace to finish off an incisive first-minute attack.
After an error-strewn opening quarter, Dubai Hurricanes wing Daryl Johnson profited from some great offloads from his forwards to put the hosts two points ahead.
Steele then got his opener thanks to a searing break from Saracens team-mate John Coutts, before an interception from Jebel Ali Dragons inside centre Murray Strang gave Dubai a 14-12 half-time lead.
A lack of discipline did not hold Abu Dhabi back at the start of the second half, as Thompson crashed over out wide to provide the finish a spellbinding move deserved.
Steele again was perfectly positioned to profit from a break to put the visitors out of sight, with Hurricanes’ back Andy Powell skipping through for a late consolation.
“I thought Abu Dhabi deserved to win,” Dubai coach Apollo Perelini said. “It was awesome to have everyone here today for the Bill McLaren Foundation.”
The BMF was set up in 2010 to help promote the sport and raise money following the death of McLaren, who was nicknamed the ‘Voice of Rugby’ during an iconic commentary career.
Friday's game ended a week of events, that has included a golfing day, lunch and dinner at various locations in the UAE.
McLaren’s grandson and former Scotland scrum-half, Rory Lawson, was pleased with how the inaugural tour has gone.
“The support has been terrific,” the 33-year-old said. “It is the start of something that we want to build on, looking forward.”