x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Dubai Exiles ready to bounce back for new rugby season

Appointment of South African Jan Venter as head coach earns praise from team¿s former director of rugby

DUBAI // The appointment of Jan Venter as the new head coach of the Dubai Exiles could go a long way to reviving the fortunes of the city's longest established club.

That is the view of Wayne Marsters, a former director of rugby at the Exiles who is now the rugby manager for the UAE Rugby Association.

The club have responded to the travails of last season, when they were forced to curtail their campaign three weeks early because of a dearth of first-team players, by entering just one senior team in the domestic league competition for the forthcoming season.

The Abu Dhabi Saracens, by contrast, have sides in both the UAE Premiership and the Conference, despite being in just their second year of operation.

Fostering a stronger domestic league is one of the key targets of the national rugby association, as they bid to close the gap between the national team and the other leading nations in Asia. An Exiles revival, as part of a new, abbreviated six-team top division, is an important step towards that goal.

"Hopefully they will have a good season, as whatever is good for club rugby is going to be good for us," said Marsters, who was head coach of Iran in between his role with the Exiles and his current position with the UAERA. "Their junior section is still strong and competitive. They played in more finals than not last season, with a number of wins as well.

"The men's section has been going through a difficult patch for the past couple of seasons, but now they have appointed Jan Venter as head coach, who I think will do very, very well. I think he will do a very good job with his style of coaching, as he is very straight up and down on how he does things."

The highly regarded South African coach already has one notable protege. His son, Stephan, graduated from Dubai junior rugby to playing at the Western Province Rugby Institute in South Africa, the feeder academy for the Stormers Super Rugby franchise.

He has been putting his new charges through intensive, early morning training sessions as they get ready for the new campaign, which starts later this month.

"We are not going to progress as a union if we don't continually have a stronger club competition," said Duncan Hall, the UAE performance manager.

"We can't just put a rep side together and expect them to play Japan at any level. We are setting out new benchmarks for next season.

"What they did in Hong Kong at first was to improve their club comp[etition]. In a way we are doing that through the changed structure of the club season, through more coach education, and a good structure for the season."