UAE prove they are ‘not walkovers anymore’ at Asian Rugby Sevens
Getting better: UAE (black) put on a much improved performance in Hong Kong,
The UAE’s improved showing at the Malaysian round of the ARFU HSBC Asian Rugby Sevens Series proves they are “not walkovers anymore”, according to performance manager Roelof Kotze.
Although Kotze’s men finished bottom in the 12-team tournament for the second event running, they showed signs of significant progress in both defence and attack.
Last Saturday in Kuala Lumpur they lost 48-0 to South Korea and 29-7 to Malaysia in the group phase, before falling to a 34-7 defeat to Kazakhstan in the bowl semi-final and a 24-7 loss to Chinese Taipei in the 11th place play-off on Sunday.
This was a positive upturn from their showing in Hong Kong a fortnight ago, where they scored just one try and conceded 160 points in four draining matches.
“Malaysia showed that we are slowly getting better in all areas,” Kotze said. “If teams give our guys a chance to play, we will take it.
“Other nations will be realising that they can’t just put out their second string against us. We are not walkovers anymore. As a team and coaching staff, we were very happy with the improvement from Hong Kong. We are heading in the right direction, for sure.
“There is much work still to do, but we are making progress. Our defensive structure was much more solid, and we are attacking with more depth and width. To be drawing 7-7 at half-time against a Malaysia side that beat us 40-0 in Hong Kong was great to see.”
The only negatives for the UAE were the serious injuries suffered by Mohammad Alawi (fractured collarbone) and Mohammed Abbas (broken leg). The pair will miss the third and final Sevens Series competition in Beijing, China, from October 18-19. But teenagers Majid Al Balooshi, Younes Al Balooshi and Abdul Al Hajri should be present.
Meanwhile, Kotze said the changes in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic 2016 pre-qualifying schedule could aid the UAE’s hopes.
The ARFU decided this week that the second pre-qualifier in Chennai, India, would be moved from November 29-30 to early 2015 as International Olympic Committee rules state that qualifiers for the Games must be held a year before the finals. The opening Al Ain event will still be played on October 31-November 1, but it will now act as a seeding competition for Chennai rather than a pre-qualifier.
In the original plan, the team with the highest points accrued in Al Ain and Chennai would make the core 12 Asian Qualifiers in 2015.