x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Lunjevich calls time on sevens

Mike Lunjevich steps down as coach but warns the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union against paying for a full-time replacement.

DUBAI // Mike Lunjevich has cautioned the Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union against paying a new full-time head coach of the sevens team, after stepping down from the position himself. The New Zealander has confirmed his decision to cede control of the region's sevens side in order to devote more time to family life, as well as his role as a partner in a law firm. He held the coaching position on a part-time, volunteer basis for the past three-and-a-half years, culminating in last weekend's World Cup Sevens in Dubai.

He believes the AGRFU would be better served directing funds into their buddy scheme with the South African Rugby Union, rather than appointing a full-time replacement. "They should invest their money with the South African union, and bring up some of the South African coaches temporarily," said Lunjevich. "I don't think a full-time sevens coach would have enough to do in Dubai. Aside from the fact it wouldn't be efficient, the guy would get bored.

"If they took some of the money and spoke to that second tier of coaches below [the Springbok sevens coach] Paul Treu, they could stay in South Africa and bring them here for three to six months per year. "There are some great guys down there who you could probably get fairly cheap, and South Africa obviously has a great rugby pedigree. "I have seen the calibre of coaches down there, it is great and we should probably have a look at that."

The Gulf's sevens side benefited from the expert tuition of Treu, whose Boks are joint-top of the IRB World Series, in a series of training camps this season. The two nations have formed a strong bond, so much so that the South African players were among the most vocal supporters of the Gulf side at The Sevens last weekend. Treu has also spoken highly of the dedication of the amateur players from the Gulf, who proved to be competitive at international level despite also holding down day-jobs.

Lunjevich, who is looking forward to spending more time with his two year old son Dominic, will officially yield the coach's reins, but remains keen to assist if required. He added: "I have not one regret in the world and I take my hat off to the guys who have been involved. "I will stay involved as much as anyone wants me to stay involved. If they have room for me to be involved, I would love to be, but I just can't dedicate four nights a week to it."

The outgoing coach was denied his moment of glory last week when his side held the lead over Italy, the established Six Nations side, only to be disappointed in stoppage time. "Sevens is such a bitter-sweet thing that the high point was full-time against Italy, which was followed a few moments later by a bitter defeat," he said. "To me that summed up sevens. pradley@thenational.ae