x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

High hopes for Gulf youngsters

Three of the Arabian Gulf's young sevens prospects are heading to Stellenbosch to live and train at the South African Sevens high-performance centre.

Jonny MacDonald, left, some of his mates in the Arabian Gulf side look set to make big strides in the world of rugby after their performance during the Dubai Sevens last week.
Jonny MacDonald, left, some of his mates in the Arabian Gulf side look set to make big strides in the world of rugby after their performance during the Dubai Sevens last week.

DUBAI // Three of the Arabian Gulf's young sevens prospects are heading to Stellenbosch to live and train at the South African Sevens high-performance centre. Jonny MacDonald, 20, and Taif al Delamie, 22, two newcomers to the squad who impressed at the Dubai Rugby Sevens, and Stuart Gibb will be sent to South Africa as the Gulf make the most of their buddy scheme with the Boks.

MacDonald and Gibb have deferred their university studies in order to devote themselves to the Gulf's campaign, while al Delamie has taken a four-month sabbatical from his job as a personal trainer in Ireland. Mike Lunjevich's extended Gulf squad will also travel there in January for another training camp, where they will be put through their paces by Paul Treu and the rest of the South Africa coaching staff.

The union are planning a series of initiatives in a bid to better their promising performance at the Dubai Rugby Sevens last weekend at the Sevens World Cup next March. Stephen Cooper, the South Africa-born captain of the Gulf, said: "Last weekend was great and we are rapt with how we went but we are mindful as a team that this is just the beginning. "In a little over three months' time we will be back here again competing in the World Cup. The crowd support we were given at The Sevens was amazing and it really helped to inspire the boys to play to our best."

The Arabian Gulf's administrators are also in talks with their counterparts from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and South Africa about staging a six-team warm-up tournament in Dubai before the World Cup. pradley@thenational.ae