x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Arabs the way forward: Treu

The Arabian Gulf would benefit from a quota system guaranteeing a number of Arab players a place in the senior squad, according to the South Africa coach.

The Arabian Gulf would benefit from a quota system guaranteeing a number of Arab players a place in the senior squad, according to Paul Treu, the South Africa coach. Treu has enjoyed great success as the boss of the Boks' sevens team, despite having the controversial transformation system imposed upon him for the duration of his tenure.

The policy demands that more than half his squad are "players of colour", as administrators continue to try to make the traditionally white-dominated game more representative of the country's population. Opinion is divided as to how successful the quota system has been in South Africa. Chiliboy Ralepelle, the first black player to captain a Springbok XV, says it has hindered the transformation process, yet Treu feels it has merits.

By contrast, rugby in the Middle East is dominated by expatriates. The union have made great strides in recent years to spread the game to the local population, hastened by the recruitment of an Arabic-speaking development officer, Ghaith Jalagel, in 2006. For the first time, there are two Arab players in the extended Gulf squad, the Omani full-back Taif al Delamie and Emirati winger Mohammed Hassan Rahma.

Now Treu, who has fostered a keen interest in Gulf rugby as the South Afican team have taken them under the wing in recent months, providing coaching assistance, thinks a quota policy could be the next step to advancing the game here. "It has its merits and its disadvantages," said Treu. "If they really want to get local people involved in the game, maybe that is the way to go. "It is not a negative thing. It gives more people the chance to become involved in the game that would never have got the opportunity to play at that level.

"Maybe that would be a good start. I don't think it is a bad idea and it might be the answer to their problems." More arabic sides than ever before are playing at this weekend's Dubai Rugby Sevens. Al Ahli rugby club, who were formerly known as the UAE Falcons, are the most progressive Emirati team. They fielded one team of novice rugby players on the opening day of competition, yesterday, while their more experienced charges will be in action today.

Taif al Delamie, the only Arab player in the Arabian Gulf squad for the Sevens, totally refutes the notion that he cares more about their success than his teammates. Other than Delamie, an Omani national, the Gulf squad is peopled entirely by expatriate players, a number of whom have been schooled in the region and now regard it as home. "I would not see myself differentiated from any of the other lads in that aspect," said the winger, who has played most of his rugby in Ireland.

"If you see us at training, it really means a big deal to everyone. I tend not to focus on that fact. "It certainly means everything to me at the moment, which is why I have taken three months off to come out here and give it my best shot." pradley@thenational.ae