DUBAI // Andy Cole, the chairman of Abu Dhabi Harlequins, says his club are frustrated their attempt to shift the likely UAE Premiership title decider against Dubai Exiles to a different date have been rebuffed.
However, he acknowledged no rules had been breached and that Harlequins do have the requisite players to fulfil the fixture.
Dave Stolzenberg, one of the capital side’s longest serving players, had arranged his wedding back in his native South Africa for earlier this week.
When he did so, he anticipated the rugby season would be over. On the corresponding date last season, the campaign had finished.
As many as 60 club members travelled to Cape Town for the event. It took place earlier this week, but a variety of senior players have opted to extend their holiday, meaning they will miss the match between the sides who are first and second in the table.
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Harlequins had explored the possibility of rearranging the fixture as far back as January, when the clash with the wedding first became obvious.
Back then, it was thought the side from the capital might not have enough experienced front-row forwards available to fulfil the fixture at all. That concern has not been realised, even though they will be heavily depleted elsewhere.
Cole returned from the wedding of his work colleague on Thursday, but he will also be absent from the trip to The Sevens, as he heads back to the UK for a family holiday during the school holiday period.
The Exiles have countered by saying that they, too, will be affected by absences caused by school term times.
“Exiles have done nothing wrong, they are following the UAE guidelines, and there is nothing we can do,” Cole said.
“It is no different from a Premiership team in the UK losing players to international teams. You still have to play on.
“It is just a shame, having been given 12 weeks notice to try to change the dates, people were not prepared to move.”
As recently as two weeks ago, Mike McFarlane, the Harlequins coach, had feared they might have to forfeit the game.
“It is a real shame, being the decider, and it will feel a bit odd,” said McFarlane, who also advocated a return to the old format of an end of season final to decide the champions.
Jacques Benade, Exiles coach, said his side remain focused as they aim for a double of major trophies.
“I think we are sitting in the same position as them,” Benade said. “Schools are on holiday so you are missing a few players, teachers are going back home.
“We will be short, they will be short, but I still think it is going to be as competitive as can be. It is still a massive game. Whatever two teams fill the pitch it is going to be competitive.”
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