x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Quihen Marais puts Al Ain rugby on the map

The Amblers centre has been called up to the national club, meaning he will miss the UAE Seven Series which starts today

Quihen Marais has impressed his peers in practice.
Quihen Marais has impressed his peers in practice.

Al Ain Amblers may be the most geographically isolated of all domestic rugby clubs, but they are obviously doing something right.

As the UAE Sevens Series caravan moves on to the Garden City on Friday, the club can reflect on a job well done as one of their own graduates to the national sevens team.

They will have to do without their young centre, Quihen Marais, when they play in their home competition, after he was picked to go to Goa this weekend with the UAE.

His Afrikaans surname might suggest he is another ready-made player transposed from South Africa, who has counted down the years until he has become eligible to play for the UAE.

However, that is far from the case.

Marais's family moved to Al Ain when he was just 11 months old, and his first sport of choice was ice hockey.

When the ice hockey scene diminished in the city he took to rugby, and his rise in the game during the intervening five years has been swift.

"I love any physical sports, and that is definitely my favourite aspect of rugby," Marais, 18, who plays at inside centre for the Amblers, said.

"I started playing for Al Ain's first team when I was 17. I adjusted, started to put on some weight, and I have never felt phased at all by playing senior rugby at all. The idea of touring with the UAE team is very exciting. I can't wait."

His selection is a boon for Al Ain, given that the national team usually draw all their personnel from Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

"Because we are so far out, it can be prohibitive in terms of players getting to training [with the national team in Dubai]," said Kit Philp, Al Ain's director of rugby.

"We will always support our guys in terms of stepping up to the next level."

Marais has played representative age-group rugby for the Arabian Gulf and has already impressed in his short time so far with the senior team.

Seasoned representative players in the UAE squad describe him as "fearless".

He has been compared to Khaled Helal, the Hurricanes's wing, who made his debut for the Arabian Gulf in 2009 when he was still at school.

"He has good speed, even though he is solidly built, and we think he could do really well," Wayne Marsters, the UAE rugby manager, said.

"He came along to the first XVs training session and everyone was saying, 'Where's this guy come from?'

"He settled in to it really well."

pradley@thenational.ae

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