by Matt Jones
Monday 24 August 2015
Love for the game: Apollo Perelini passes on his knowledge at 7he Sevens.
UAE Shaheen coach Apollo Perelini believes Emiratis becoming truly passionate about rugby is the key to the progression of the game in the country.
The New Zealand-born former dual code Samoan international was named head coach of the development team last month and took charge of his first training session at 7he Sevens last night.
It is an exciting period for the Shaheen, who will embark on their first ever competitive season of rugby in the UAE Community League, a third tier of domestic
rugby being introduced for the 2015-16 season.
The Shaheen begin their campaign on September 18 against Jebel Ali Dragons 3rds and Perelini is aiming to win the competition.
“My plan is to do really well in that third league. I’m aiming to win it. I want to win it,” said Perelini, who burst on to the world stage with Western Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
"I don’t enter competitions just to be participants. We’re there to win.”
The 45-year-old stressed his appointment is part of a long-term plan aimed at teaching local players how to compete and instilling rugby into the Emirati culture.
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“The key is to try and get some of these guys playing in the UAE national team one day,” added Perelini. “It’s not a quick fix. It’s a big project.
“Expats come and go but these guys are the mainstay, they’ll be here in the long run.
“We grew up on it, it’s second nature. These guys have had to learn it. My aim is for kids from age five to learn and understand rugby before they get to a competitive age.
“If they learn it from a young age they’ll grow a passion for it. I want these guys to grow a passion for it and they will rub off on the next generation.
"If they enjoy it and begin to love it, it becomes a passion. Until then we can’t get them to commit 100 per cent. My aim is to get these guys fully committed and that will come with them loving and enjoying it.”
The Kiwi enjoyed a glittering rugby career in the UK, initially in league with St Helens before crossing over to union with Sale Sharks.
He said he was hugely encouraged by his side’s first gathering, with the team now set for three gruelling two-hour training sessions per week for the next four weeks in order to be ready for the first game of the season.
“There’s a lot of potential there. It was really good and I was really impressed with some of the boys,” said Perelini.
“I’m hard and strict on the skills of the game but also very approachable and like to have fun and train with a smile. If they train with a smile, they’ll want to be here.
“I want them to look forward to training and games. It’s not a chore, it’s a journey and this is just the start of the journey for these boys.”