x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Dubai Sevens: UAE bank on knowledge of experienced Sharks pair

The Sevens side, comprised mostly mostly of Emiratis, will 'need character and resilience' says coach Duncan Hall.

South Africa's Mzo Mbona, centre, is one of two players for the UAE at the Dubai Sevens.
South Africa's Mzo Mbona, centre, is one of two players for the UAE at the Dubai Sevens.

DUBAI // Duncan Hall, the UAE coach, reckons the developmental national team will be competing at a level "four or five steps higher" than they have before when they begin their International Invitational campaign tomorrow.

For the first time there will be no home representation in the IRB competition at the Dubai Rugby Sevens this weekend.

However, the task facing the national select side in the tier below the world series is barely any easier.

A variety of aspiring international players from the leading rugby nations use the invitational competition to advertise their wares.

The UAE, meanwhile, have allowed most of their leading expatriate players to represent their clubs in Gulf Men's League matches, and focus the national team mainly on Emirati players.

To offset the difference in experience, the UAE Rugby Federation has imported two players from the Sharks Academy in Durban.

Calvin Karnezos, 24, and Mzo Mbona, 21, were in the Sharks side who won the South African provincial sevens competition.

They were introduced to their new teammates for the first time at a training session at Dubai Sports City last night, and Hall is grateful to have them.

"They provide something we haven't got here," said Hall, who has arrived back in Dubai after presenting team jerseys to the Australia players ahead of their Test in Italy at the weekend.

"The competition is going to be four or five steps higher than we have played before. To play England B, Moscow and a strong Samurai side is going to be tough. We will need character and resilience.

"These players have come from South African provincial rugby and, without having seen them play, they come highly recommended."

Karnezos will likely direct the UAE team from fly-half, while Mbona hopes to be posted in the outside backs, to make the most of pace that has seen him clock 4.9 seconds over 40 metres.

"We were very excited when we found out we were coming here," Karnezos said. "We want to lend the players here some of our rugby knowledge.

"It is cool to be here at an international tournament, and we know there are selectors around so hopefully we can catch their eye."

Mbona added: "We want to be competitive, to give some of our rugby experience to players who are learning the game, and add to our own experience, too."


twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE and Paul Radley @PaulRadley