Apollo Perelini says UAE Shaheen players grateful for the chance to play ‘win or lose’
Apollo Perelini, the UAE Shaheen coach, said his group of novice Emirati rugby players are unlikely to get carried away with their two-game winning streak.
The UAE Rugby Federation pitched a side of Emiratis into competitive XVs rugby for the first time this season when the Shaheen development side joined the new Community League.
Predictably for a side made up of beginners, none of whom had ever played XVs rugby before, they struggled at first and lost their first four matches.
Now, though, their record now reads played six, won two, after they claimed a 33-10 success over Dubai Sharks’ third team last weekend.
Perelini, who played internationally in both league and union before turning to coaching, said his rookie players are progressing well.
“There are not many sports where you get to knock somebody out, then pick them up and see if they are OK,” Perelini said.
“They love the culture of forming a tunnel when you are exiting the field after the game, of giving three cheers and clapping your opposition.
“The good thing is they are humble about winning. They came off and I said, ‘Good win’. And they said, ‘Very good win, sir’.
“They were not running around saying they had got another scalp. They just said it had been a pleasure to play and that they were thankful for the chance to play, win or lose.”
Under the guidance of Perelini and Yousuf Shaker, the first qualified Emirati coach – who also acts as translator – Shaheen have become competitive in the third-tier division.
Their coach said that should not be the extent of the players’ ambitions, though. Senior Emirati players Hassan Al Noobi and Mohammed Hassan have featured regularly at Premiership level for Abu Dhabi Saracens this season.
Walid Al Balooshi, one of Shaheen’s outstanding players, has also signed for Saracens.
Perelini regards that as a major success that the Emiratis who are new to rugby should be looking to emulate.
“Ultimately, because Shaheen is a third-division, development-pathway team, we want to push them out to other clubs once they get better,” Perelini said. “All our better players are going to Premiership clubs and that is what we want to achieve with this programme.
“Rather than pushing them, we want them to choose to play at a higher level.”
Like all players involved in domestic rugby, Shaheen’s players can also look forward to the possibility of seeing themselves on TV screens in future.
The UAE RF have penned a two-year deal with Dubai Sports to air a 30-minute show dedicated to the sport here every two weeks.
“We are thrilled to partner with Dubai Sports and bring to life the UAE Rugby Show where all expatriate and Emirati elements of the sport will be showcased,” UAE Rugby’s secretary general Qais Al Dhalai said this week.
“We are confident the weekly show will be well received and supported by all and become an integral part of the wider UAE rugby community’s week.”
Short-handed Harlequins want to get on with business
Six weeks after they last played a game of 15-a-side rugby, Abu Dhabi Harlequins will belatedly get their West Asia Championship campaign under way with a trip to Muscat on Friday.
Despite the gap between fixtures, the UAE Premiership leaders are still hampered by availability problems this weekend. Nine first team players are absent from the match-day squad because of either injury, travel or Dubai Marathon commitments.
“It has put a strain on us – and the second team – but we are lucky to have such great depth that we can put out two strong teams,” Harlequins coach Mike McFarlane said.
Before their return to a newly expanded competition this season, Muscat was a destination that had been missing from the schedule of the leading cross-border competition for some years.
Most of the Harlequins players, for example, will be playing in Oman for the first time.
There once was a time when players from UAE clubs treated this away day as a road trip adventure.
Harlequins, though, have set new standards of professionalism, within the amateur confines of the domestic game, this season.
Unsurprisingly, their sole focus is getting a result against a side who have conceded 199 points in two games so far.
“There is business to be done,” McFarlane said ahead of this morning’s flight to Muscat.
“Dubai Exiles set a benchmark with that [144-5 win two weeks ago in Dubai], albeit Muscat were not able to travel strongly.
“We are expecting a tough game. With the UAE Premiership and the Top 9, so many of the teams overlap, so we play many of the same teams a number of times during the season.
“It is fantastic to play a different team, against players we won’t have played before. We are expecting nothing less than a really good fight.”
West Asia Championship
• Bahrain 15-24 Dubai Exiles
• AD Saracens 22-31 Doha
• Dubai Hurricanes 55-5 Muscat
• JA Dragons 54-24 Al Ain Amblers
• Doha v Dubai Hurricanes
• Bahrain v Jebel Ali Dragons
• Muscat v AbuDhabi Harlequins
• Al Ain Amlers v Abu Dhabi Saracens
W L D Pts
1 Doha 2 0 0 10 2 Dubai Exiles 2 0 0 9
3 Dubai Hurricanes 1 0 0 5 4 Jebel Ali Dragons 1 0 0 5
5 Bahrain 1 0 1 4 6 AD Saracens 0 0 2 1
7 Al Ain Amblers 0 0 2 1 8 AD Harlequins 0 0 0 0
9 Muscat 0 0 2 0
• Arabian Knights 18-28 Dubai Hurricanes II
• Dubai Sharks 22-23 Jebel Ali Dragons II
• Heartbeat Tigers 30-16 Abu Dhabi Harlequins II
• Sharjah Wanderers 20-0 Al Ain Amblers II
• Dubai Wasps 22-7 Abu Dhabi Saracens II
Table – top six
W L D Pts
1 Sharjah 7 1 0 36 2 AD Harlequins II 7 0 1 35
3 Dubai Hurricanes 7 0 2 30 4 Dubai Exiles 5 0 3 27
5 JA Dragons 4 1 3 23 6 Dubai Sharks 4 0 4 21
UAE Community League
W L D Pts
1 JA Dragons III 5 0 0 25 2 Beaver Nomads 5 0 0 24
3 Arabian Knights II 3 0 2 16 4 Al Ain Amblers III 3 0 1 14
5 Dubai Sharks III 2 0 4 10 6 Dubai Hurricanes 2 0 3 10
• Women’s Sevens Cross Border League, Kuwait leg
• HSBC Mini and Youth Rugby Festival, The Sevens, Dubai
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE
Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/TheNationalSport
Published: January 21, 2016 04:00 AM