by Matt Jones
Thursday 30 July 2015
Lomu offered advice to the excited UAE players.
There was a time when the mere presence of New Zealand rugby legend Jonah Lomu on the field would terrify the living daylights out of anyone in sight of him.
However, there was nothing but delight and enthusiasm when the former All Blacks winger paid an impromptu visit to the UAE sevens squad training in Dubai on Tuesday evening, providing pointers for players preparing for the Asian Sevens Series in September.
Lomu, 40, was visiting the UAE for a medical check-up and actually asked UAE Rugby Federation officials if he could visit Roelof Kotze and his squad who were training at 7he Sevens Stadium.
He ran through some drills with the star-struck mix of Emirati and expat players, who are preparing for the new domestic season as well as the two legs of the Series they will be competing at in Shanghai and Colombo in September and October.
UAE national team head coach Kotze said it was both a beneficial and enjoyable evening.
“It was a last minute thing. It wasn’t at all planned. He wanted to come to practice and asked did I mind and I said not at all, come up,” said Kotze.
“Whenever he’s here he always contacts us and we help him here and there with medical stuff. We were fetching him from the doctors and he asked if anything was happening rugby wise.
“Someone said there was training so he asked if he could come. I didn’t think any more of it. The next thing I know here comes the big man strolling down towards the pitch.”
- Roelof Kotze to reintroduce expats to sevens setup
- UAE: Premiership & Gulf Top Six given revamp
- England: Burgess to be given chance at centre
- Australia: Hooper cited after Argentina victory
The South African has switched his focus for the upcoming 2015/16 season as far as the sevens side of the game is concerned, deciding to re-introduce expat players to the national set-up in a bid to boost the success rate of the UAE as well as further the development of Emirati players.
Lomu’s presence at training will also have produced a timely fillip after a fairly bleak 2014/15 sevens season, which saw the UAE failing to qualify for Rio 2016 after a poor performance at a pre-Olympic qualifier in Chennai in March.
“Some of them were shocked initially to see him there. He came in, observed the session for most of it then at one stage he just asked if I minded if he said one or two things and I said sure,” said Kotze.
“We were doing a drill and he just said he wanted to tell them one or two things about it, what they’re missing and one or two technical issues.
“He called the boys in and gave them one or two pointers, on the technical aspects of the breakdown and communicating.
“Communication has developed because there are guys that obviously don’t speak Arabic and guys that don’t speak English. He came on and told the guys they were too quiet. That was good because that’s what I’ve been telling them.
“Great minds think alike I guess, although I wouldn’t put myself in with him.”
Kotze paid tribute to Lomu, who also attended a training session the last time he was in the UAE in 2014, when he was a guest at the inaugural UAE Rugby Annual Awards.
Lomu even said he feels the team has improved in the last 12 months.
Kotze added: “Afterwards the players all wanted to have their photos taken with him. It was really good and a nice evening. It was great for the guys. I’m sure everybody there was chuffed to see him and hear what he had to say.
“He’s a nice guy. He was very complimentary, he said the guys were looking better than the last time he saw them. He thinks there’s been an improvement.
“He was here for the UAE Rugby Annual Awards last year and attended one of our sessions and now he’s come out again, so it was nice to hear from him.
“I spoke to him about coming again. When he’s around next I’ll definitely get him in. He always offers to come along when he’s here so perhaps next time we’ll just make it more formal.