DUBAI // The UAE sevens team want to send their departing coach, Roelof Kotze, back to South Africa on a “historic” note this weekend, according captain Niall Statham.
The national team are playing at the Colombo Sevens, the third and final leg of the Asian Sevens Series, and will start the event ranked sixth in the standings.
A place in the top eight, and core status in next season’s series for the first time, is their stated aim.
The tournament in Sri Lanka will be the final assignment Kotze oversees before he ends his involvement with UAE rugby and returns to his homeland to take up a new job.
Statham, who has earned representative honours in both XVs and sevens on Kotze’s watch, said the players were shocked when they heard the news of his departure.
“He has been so professional, and we had no idea that it was coming,” said Statham, who is one of six Jebel Ali Dragons in the UAE squad in Sri Lanka.
“It took us all by surprise, and we are disappointed because it feels like we are just starting to hit our stride and he is moving on to his new venture.
“Hopefully we will send him out on a really high note, because we are on the verge of doing something historic for UAE rugby.”
Apollo Perelini, who coaches the UAE’s Emirati development programme, will assume charge of the national team on an interim basis.
Statham is confident Kotze has created a new self-belief within the elite game here that can survive him leaving.
“The legacy Roelof leaves will be some really strong teams and players, who are really passionate about the cause regardless of who the next person is,” Statham said.
“There are more players who want to become involved, so whoever comes in next hopefully will not miss a step.”
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