UAE has promising youngsters to take next level from club to Test rugby

Adel Al Hendi’s commitment and Sargent’s flair and pace in UAE's one-off Test of the season against Singapore impresses the performance manager.

Adel Al Hendi, centre, is one of the most promising rugby union players in the UAE. Photograph courtesy of Elite Step
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DUBAI // Roelof Kotze, the UAE rugby performance manager, said the national team have found some young gems on which to base the future in the form of teenaged wingers Adel Al Hendi and Charlie Sargent.

Kotze had said in the lead up to this week’s Test defeat to Singapore that his main selection criteria is for players who show commitment. He has found that in Al Hendi.

The student from Abu Dhabi is just 18 and still has a teenager’s physique, yet he is courageous in collisions.

At one point in the first half on Wednesday, a Singapore second-rower and a back-row forward were lined up ready to attack a short blindside on Al Hendi’s wing.

Instead of shirking the job and leaving it to a similar-sized forward from his team, Al Hendi broke the line and was the first defender to both players.

He felled each of the giants in successive tackles over separate phases. It is the sort of commitment the national team’s coach seeks.

“It is different playing for your club then all of a sudden you are playing for your country,” Kotze said. “Guys are a little bit faster, a little bit bigger and the little dance before you get to the tackle might not work any more, but these are the things you only learn by playing.

“You only learn how to play Test rugby by playing Test rugby, you don’t learn it playing club rugby.

“There are a few youngsters who I am very positive about, who I think we can go places with.”

On the other wing, the UAE have unearthed a rare talent in the form of Sargent.

The Dubai Exiles winger exhibited the sort of pace and flair that has been absent since Imad Reyal, the Jebel Ali Dragon, who is the most potent attacker in domestic rugby, took his leave from national duty.

It was highly promising, given Sargent is just 19.

“I think Charlie is a youngster with a lot of talent,” Kotze said.

“That is the kind of guy we want. We want young, exciting backs who can play and Charlie is one of those.

“He is still a youngster, he still needs to get the confidence to play at this level. Hopefully today has helped him towards that.”

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