x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

South African takes charge as UAE performance manager

Former Sharks sevens specialist is third man to hold role in six months

DUBAI // UAE rugby will begin its latest new era next month when Roelof Kotze begins work as the country’s third performance manager in the space of six months.

The South African coach will take over a role that has been vacant since Epeli Lagiloa parted ways with the UAE Rugby Federation earlier this month.

The arrival of Kotze, a sevens specialist who previously coached the Sharks abridged side in South Africa, seemingly indicates the main focus of the federation remains on the short format of the game.

They have reiterated that their main goal for 2014 is a successful showing at the Asian Games, where the national team will be represented exclusively by UAE passport holders.

“The UAERF is delighted to announce the appointment of the South African Roelof Kotze as the new performance manager,” the federation said in a statement on Sunday.

“The UAERF wishes the new performance manager all the best.”

Kotze’s appointment is the latest product of the association between UAE rugby and the Sharks franchise, who also affixed their name to a development academy here.

His primary remit is to prepare the developing Emirati players who make up the national sevens team for their first appearance at the Asian Games in South Korea in September.

Before then, he will also oversee the performance of the XVs side, which will include expatriate players, in their Asian Five Nations Division One campaign in April.

The UAE were relegated from the top flight of rugby in Asia at the end of last season, and they will play in a competition involving Kazakhstan, Taiwan and Singapore at the culmination of this season.

“Our main focus is how do we prepare our sevens team to take part in the Asian Games,” Qais Al Dhalai, the UAERF secretary general, said recently.

“We have other targets, like getting promoted to the top five of the Asian Five Nations.”

Kotze’s arrival punctuates a year of upheaval at the top of UAE rugby. Duncan Hall, the country’s first full-time performance manager, stepped down from the role in June after a year and a half in charge.

His successor, Lagiloa, was appointed with great expectations, but he only lasted four months in the job before parting company with the federation, officially citing “family reasons” as his reason for departure.

Then in August, Ian Bremner was dismissed as the chief executive as part of a revamp of the way the federation is run at the boardroom level.

pradley@thenational.ae