x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE's search for sevens coach moves on after double miss

The rugby association turn their attention to a French candidate, while Freddie Grobler, the Blue Bulls academy general manager, shows interest.

Ben Gollings, centre, the English sevens legend, was a candidate for the UAE role, but chose to take a job with a fifth-tier side in England.
Ben Gollings, centre, the English sevens legend, was a candidate for the UAE role, but chose to take a job with a fifth-tier side in England.

The rugby association will turn their attention to a French candidate after their search for a coach for the UAE sevens team received a double set-back.

Ian Bremner, the chief executive, is resigned to seeing his unnamed No 1 target join London Wasps, the English rugby union giants. And preliminary discussions with Ben Gollings, the all-time record points-scorer in sevens rugby, did not progress to an advanced stage because the England fly-half had already accepted an offer from Neil Back to coach the back division at Rugby Lions, a team in the fifth tier of English rugby.

On a positive note, Freddie Grobler, the coach of the South African Students team and the South Africa Invitational sevens team yesterday expressed a strong interest in the position. He is also the general manager of the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls’ academy.

The rugby association were alerted to the availability of Gollings after the English Rugby Football Union decided not to renew his contact last month.

“I spoke to Ben last week,” Bremner said. “But he had already accepted another job. He is a world-class sevens player and the experience he could have passed on would have been immense. But that’s life.”

Paul Treu, the coach of the South Africa sevens team, feels Gollings, who has scored 2,652 points in sevens rugby, would have been perfectly suited to the role.

“He has just finished playing and could be the person the UAE are looking for,” Treu said. “Ex-players can add value. You need a person with experience and quality who understands sevens internationally. You can be a good 15s coach but not necessarily good at sevens.”

The rugby association launched their search for a replacement for Shane Thornton, who occupied the role on a part-time basis, last month and will appoint a consultant who needs to be in place for the start of the Asian Rugby Sevens Series, a six-tournament event which begins with a ranking event in Shanghai next month.

The UAE need to perform well if they are to be approved by the International Rugby Board for inclusion in the Dubai Sevens.

Bremner is currently casting his expert eye over a French applicant for the role. He received 35 applications for position, from candidates in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Apollo Perelini, the head of sport at Repton School in Dubai, and Chester Williams, the former coach of South Africa, have been linked with the vacancy.

Treu, who replaced Williams as coach of the Springboks in 2004, has navigated South Africa to eight tournament titles and a bronze medal at last year’s Commonwealth Games.

He played a fundamental role in the global growth of sevens, which will become an Olympic sport in 2016, and is therefore well placed to illustrate the significance of the appointment of a UAE sevens coach.

“It’s crucial they get the right person,” Treu said. “They need a quality coach who has the necessary expertise and is able to bring the right support staff with him. They [the UAE] need to build from the bottom up and grow the game.”

Having a sevens coach in place will also give Bremner time to make a considered appointment for the more important role of a full-time performance director who must have sevens and 15s experience.

“We are also looking to bring in a performance director by start of 2012 with world-class skills,” said Bremner. “We are putting the finishing touches to a sophisticated job description for this role.

"They must be able to develop elite players and coaches, introduce a high performance strategy and able to implement performance analysis. We need a sophisticated way of giving feedback to the players.”

Bremner feels the performance in the Asian Five Nations earlier this year, where the team faded in the final three games after opening the campaign with a draw and a win, highlighted the need for a more professional approach.

“After the Asian Five Nations, the players just went home,” Bremner said. “We need a performance director who can analyse a performance quickly and give the players a DVD of their performance. We need someone who can implement technology and sport science. With regards to high performance, it is no good having players from Abu Dhabi and Dubai meet two or three times a week.

“We need to be able to give them their own fitness programme, find a way of recording that and feeding it into a central database.”

Treu acknowledges the prospective performance director faces an exciting challenge developing an embryonic union.

“The candidate will be starting something from scratch,” Treu said. “He’ll have to be able to strategically implement a plan and plan for a long period of time. They’ve got to be looking at the next five years.”

“They need a person with a vision who can see the bigger picture and how understands complexities of the region. Everything is here; the people, the drive the facilities.”

kaffleck@thenational.ae

Follow Kevin Affleck on Twitter: @Affers1178