UAE continue progress with top eight finish at Asian Sevens Series in Bangkok

Roelof Kotze, the UAE coach, says all the hard work of recent years is finally starting to bear fruit, after the national team broke into the top eight of the Asian Sevens Series for the first time.
Roelof Kotze has said the latest results from the UAE are a clear sign of progress. Pawan Singh / The National
Roelof Kotze has said the latest results from the UAE are a clear sign of progress. Pawan Singh / The National

Roelof Kotze, the UAE coach, says all the hard work of recent years is finally starting to bear fruit, after the national team broke into the top eight of the Asian Sevens Series for the first time.

The UAE lost out to China 26-5 in the final of the second-tier Plate competition in Bangkok on Sunday, having earlier claimed wins against Philippines and Malaysia.

That equates to sixth place, which is the highest finish the side have managed at an international competition.

At the start of the series, Kotze targeted a place in the top eight on the three-tournament circuit, which concludes in Colombo next month.

That should guarantee the national team core status for next season, meaning they would no longer be reliant on invitations to play.

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It follows on from winning the Bowl title, to finish ninth, in Qingdao in the opening leg of the series and is the latest sign of the incremental progress UAE rugby has made in recent times.

Back in May, the XVs side won two Test matches, the first time they had tasted success in three years. And earlier this month, a side made up fully of Emirati players played a competitive XVs fixture for the first time.

With the results of the sevens side this weekend, Kotze reckons signs of progress are starting to show.

“It is gratifying to see that we are starting to get some results for the work that has been put in,” he said.

In their opening game of Day 2, the UAE lost their Trophy quarter-final to Japan, whose XVs side have caught the attention of the wider international community at the Rugby World Cup.

A Plate semi-final win over Malaysia then put them into the final, a match which was lost against Malaysia.

“The top four sides are pretty professional, if not completely professional,” the coach said, referring to Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

“It is hard for us to get to that level, but we have to strive to get there.

“It wasn’t long ago that the boys would have been happy getting to the Plate final. They came off the field disappointed they had lost in the Plate final.

“It is new ground for us playing three games in one day in international competition. They said they weren’t fit enough to play three games, so they are going to go off and work on it.

“It is good that those sort of comments are coming from the players, it is not me telling them. That is where they want to be.”

pradley@thenational.ae

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Published: September 27, 2015 04:00 AM

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