Ravin du Plessis, the new director of rugby at Dubai Exiles, has been there, done that, and told Richie McCaw how it should be done. The coach, who served as technical director for the Springboks at the 2003 World Cup, arrived for his new job in the UAE a fortnight ago, fresh from serving as a mentor at New Zealand's leading union, Canterbury.
In that position, often he had to analyse how McCaw, the All Blacks captain and arguably the world's top player, could possibly improve his already formidable game. "You can tick the A+ box in terms of when he hits the ruck," Du Plessis said of the world's premier flank-forward. Du Plessis was part of the technical staff during three title-winning campaigns for the Crusaders, having previously been assistant coach at the successful Cape Town Stormers franchise in his native South Africa.
Now he has opted to trade that in for a position with an amateur club, in a country where rugby remains a minority sport, and a role which is likely to involve teaching Emirati beginners how to tackle safely. But he is just where he thinks he should be. "Western Province, Stormers, Bulls, Canterbury ... all these environments are winning cultures," Du Plessis said. "When you find yourself in a place where you have 15 All Blacks or 12 Springboks in your starting team, there is not a lot to achieve to get these guys to put things together on the field. That was a challenge for me 10 years ago. Now I can start on a clean page, and start with a structure that I believe can work for the club, the union and this country. "There is a huge chance to open doors that are not open yet, such as local schools."
Aged 41, Du Plessis already has 15 years of experience working for some of rugby's most high-profile organisations. He has joined the Exiles on a three-year deal, in a position which has been vacant since the club parted ways with Wayne Marsters, the former Gulf head coach who is now the technical advisor to Iran. His new environment will certainly be far more sedate than those he experienced in rugby-mad South Africa and New Zealand, but that suits him just fine.
"You ask yourself: do I still want this week after week after week, year after year? Your life depends on a result," Du Plessis, who has a masters in psychology, said. "It is hard, but I survived 15 years of it, and I will survive 15 more years of it, because after this I am looking at the new Super rugby competition and being a head coach again or director of rugby in the future. This is an opportunity to reload your batteries, and make sure you know where you are going to."
Du Plessis's appointment is a powerful statement of intent by the Exiles, who have also instilled Peter Aki, a New Zealander, as head coach. The club have underachieved in recent years in comparison to their city rivals, the Dragons and Hurricanes, and the club's hierarchy have ambitious plans to bring success back to the club. "What we want to do is take players from the cradle to veterans," Mike Wolff, the chairman of the Exiles, said. "Rome wasn't built in a day and it will take time for Ravin to implement all that he wants to do, but I have every confidence he is going to be a big success." The Exiles will kick off their new campaign when they play the Dragons at The Sevens on Friday, October 1. @Email:email@example.com
Lyn Jones: Having overseen the rise of Gavin Henson during his spell in charge of the Ospreys, the former Wales flanker, pictured, gave up the stress of Heineken Cup rugby when he took up a position at the British School Al Khubairat in Abu Dhabi last year Bruce Birtwistle: Produced future All Blacks while coaching in Auckland domestic rugby. After moving to Dubai to work for a marine company, he became head coach of the Arabian Gulf. Spent the summer coaching the forwards of Dubai Dragons Apollo Perelini: Dual-code international left St Helens rugby league in 2008 to join a new sporting academy in Dubai. His start date in the UAE was delayed as he fulfilled a commitment with Samoa at rugby league's World Cup. Now with Dubai Wasps