Outstanding performances by Bryon Kraemer and Renier Els help give credence to UAE coach Wayne Marsters positive outlook at the Borneo Sevens, writes Paul Radley
Borneo Sevens: Renewed hope for Emirates
The UAE fell short of the top-six finish they had targeted at the Borneo Sevens on Sunday but were still able to celebrate the successful re-emergence of one of the finest home-grown products in domestic rugby.
Byron Kraemer, the former Dubai College schoolboy, first moved to the UAE with his family when he was 13 and went on to graduate to the Sharks Academy in his native South Africa, as well as the senior Arabian Gulf side.
However, the Jebel Ali Dragons flanker has been rarely spotted in recent years, having relocated to Ras Al Khaimah to work. Now he wants to make up for lost time after committing to the UAE sevens programme.
"With travel and work commitments I've been unable to get to Dubai, and I didn't want to play in these tournaments unless I was 100 per cent fit," Kraemer said.
"I have missed it. I wanted to get back and play. I see every year that the guys are travelling and it is an awesome experience to go see all these places and play rugby in various different countries. It is great."
Kraemer, 27, was part of a forward pack which excelled in the opening leg of the Asian Sevens Series this weekend for the UAE. Steve Smith, the veteran Dubai Hurricanes player who spent most of last season threatening to retire, remains a key part of the front three.
Wayne Marsters, the UAE sevens coach, picked out Kraemer's South African compatriot and front-row colleague Renier Els, the side's new captain, for special praise.
"I thought our forwards were outstanding. Byron was very strong, and our stand-out player was our captain, Renier Els," Marsters said, comparing the influence of Els within the side to that of DJ Forbes, the multiple World Series winning captain of New Zealand.
"His work rate and leadership were outstanding, and that from a guy I would not naturally have thought of as being a sevens player."
Although the national team lost all three of their matches on Sunday - to China, the Philippines and Kazakhstan - and thus finished eighth overall, Marsters insists there is reason for optimism with two ranking events still to play in the series.
"We competed well, physically, but that could still be improved, and technically our execution was not as accurate as it could be," Marsters said.
"Even at the level we are at, we didn't play to our potential as far as passing and decision making are concerned. That needs to improve if we are going to get up to the sixth-place ranking we have been talking about."
Japan, the defending series and Borneo champions, confirmed their status as the team to beat in the abbreviated format on the continent as they beat Hong Kong 33-22 in the final.
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