x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

New Sharks UAE Rugby Academy to unearth stars of the future

Coach Steve Botha is grooming the future UAE stars at the new Sharks UAE Rugby Academy that has been launched in Duabi, writes Paul Radley.

Sharks UAE Rugby Academy coach Steve Botha works with youth players on the training pitch Tuesday. Mike Young / The National
Sharks UAE Rugby Academy coach Steve Botha works with youth players on the training pitch Tuesday. Mike Young / The National

DUBAI // To be frank, the modern Butch James or the latest Patrick Lambie was probably not pawing the playing field of Dubai English Speaking College on Tuesday afternoon.

However, the powers that be in UAE rugby union would more than settle for the next Jonny Macdonald, Imad Reyal or Marcus Smith from their new coaching finishing school.

With a Pietermaritzburg-born head coach and being a franchise of the South African Super Rugby side of the same name, the Sharks UAE Rugby Academy has an obvious Afrikaans accent.

The expressed intention of it, though, is to rear young UAE-based players and ready them for senior national team duty.

If these players can imitate the success of Arabian Gulf and UAE representatives such as Macdonald, Reyal and Smith, each of whom spent their formative years in the game here, it will represent success.

"There is a lot of potential here to be unearthed and hopefully we can do that and try to get a pathway forwards for these boys to play for the UAE," Steve Botha, the academy coach, said yesterday.

"A couple of these boys have already played for the [UAE] Under 19 side. A few of them are up there already.

"They have to keep on working hard and hopefully they will be ready for the Test arena."

Botha, who also doubles as the head coach at the Abu Dhabi Saracens, runs weekly sessions in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, as well as Dubai.

At present, 28 players are enrolled in the DESC sessions, which was split into two groups so that Botha can devote more personal attention to improving the skills of the players.

"We want to make sure we have high intensity with a small group for an hour, rather than having a big group with low intensity and we are not able to give the individual attention we require," he said.

"We want to make each player a better player. In 10 weeks' time we will do an assessment to see how much they have improved."

pradley@thenational.ae

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