x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sister act chase their rugby passion at Sharjah Wanderers

Rae and Taya are at the heart of a promising Under 18 girls side who are keen on contact.

Rae Chase, right, comes from a lineage of rugby-playing family and the 16-year-old scrum-half is the captain of the Sharjah Wanderers Under 18 team.
Rae Chase, right, comes from a lineage of rugby-playing family and the 16-year-old scrum-half is the captain of the Sharjah Wanderers Under 18 team.

Of all the things you might readily associate with Sharjah - cricket, the Corniche or the Blue Souq, perhaps - tough, rugby-playing schoolgirls would not rank too highly.

However, the Under 18 team at Sharjah Wanderers are rapidly making a name for themselves as the enforcers of girls rugby.

"I have never had a girl who has come to rugby in Sharjah and said they don't want to do contact," said Chris Bath, a marine surveyor, who has been coaching the Wanderers girls for the past five years. "They always seem to love tackling for some reason."

Maybe it is in the genes.

At the heart of the current Under 18 side are two sisters, Rae and Taya Chase, who are continuing a rich family legacy in the sport in the emirate.

Their mother, Coral, was among the pioneering female rugby players in Sharjah, and was once selected to tour Hong Kong with the Arabian Gulf.

Older brother Ryan, who helps coach the girls team, was once part of the academy at Sale Sharks, the Premiership side in England, so it seems only natural for the sisters to continue the lineage.

"Tackling is my favourite part," said Rae, 16, who plays at scrum-half or hooker and captains the side. "If someone annoys you, you can just smack them and they fall down.

"In netball, if someone accidentally hits you, you get so angry. But in rugby, if that happens you can just smack them down to the floor, and nothing happens."

Given her own pedigree in the game, as well as her previous experience in karate, mother Coral never had any misgivings about her daughters playing such a confrontational sport.

"They just get the gumshields on and off they go," she said. "They are enjoying doing physical exercise, and it is something they love. You tackle the player, don't get tackled yourself - that is the idea."

A hybrid side from Sharjah and the Dubai Hurricanes played the first UAE-sanctioned game of full XVs female rugby against the Abu Dhabi Harlequins at the start of the month.

The Emirates Cup of Nations, which finished last week, may have come at just the wrong time for the UAE national team, but it suited the Sharjah girls perfectly.

They had unfinished business when they played their curtain-raising sevens match against the Hurricanes on December 10 in the prelude to the new international tournament.

Their 41-0 thrashing of the Hurricanes went some way to repairing the damage of their underwhelming performance at the Dubai Rugby Sevens a week earlier.

Even though they are known for the bravery of their tackling, the Sharjah girls froze, and were comprehensively outplayed by English College, the eventual winners, and the Dubai Exiles.

"The pressure of it being such a big tournament really took a toll on our team," the Sharjah-born Rae said.

"We worried and freaked out beforehand. Then when it came to our first match we had quite a bad loss, with a few injuries, and our motivation and morale dropped. This [win over the Hurricanes] has made us feel a lot better."

pradley@thenational.ae