Mike Wernham is realistic enough to know Dubai Hurricanes face a huge task to break into the coveted top four of the West Asia Premiership elite – but he and his players are determined to fight tooth and nail to get there.
Four years ago, Canes reached the UAE Premiership final against Abu Dhabi Harlequins. They had been head and shoulders above anyone else in the lead-up to the final during the regular season and came in as heavy favourites.
But they capitulated and were soundly beaten 39-19 by Jeremy Manning’s men at The Sevens – and Quins have been on the rise ever since. Canes, meanwhile, have been steadily falling and currently reside in limbo.
They are unable to break back into the elite, while they were a cut above the bottom two sides, Abu Dhabi Saracens and Dubai Eagles, last term, when finishing fifth in the Premiership.
They face Eagles in the 2018/19 season opener this Friday, a repeat of the West Asia Trophy final from March. Canes edged that encounter 31-22, but Wernham knows his side face an altogether different beast when they clash with Eagles this weekend.
“We’re going in blindfolded as there’s a lot of talk about who they’ve brought in, but we’re excited to go there,” said Wernham.
“We’re not expecting the same team that we played in the Trophy final. They’ve got a full year under their belts and got the monkey off their back against Saracens (Eagles’ first win as a club) last year so we know this is a game they’ll be targeting – particularly with a few guys who used to play for Hurricanes.
“It’s the start of the season and we know it’s going to be difficult chasing the bigger teams with bigger pockets, but as always with Hurricanes we’ll try and grit it out, do our best, keep turning up and keep working hard for the entire season and see what we get out of it.”
Defence has been a glaring issue for Canes for a number of years and to rectify that, they have brought in former Eagles head coach Pat Benson, while they have also made exciting moves on the player front – the most eye-catching being the addition of Saki Naisau from Jebel Ali Dragons.
Honoured to play an active role with the #Dubai #Hurricanes #Rugby #football #club.— zayd maniar (@zaydmaniar) 18 September 2018
They live @CroweGlobal values by;#caring for players.#sharing world class sporting techniques.#investing in the best facilities.#growing into one of the largest sporting communities in #Dubai. pic.twitter.com/HWXAIjbo3G
“We’ve got some exciting players, our back line should be at another level so we should be scoring a lot more tries,” added Wernham.
“Defence was an issue last year so we’ve brought in former Eagles coach Pat Benson so we’ll have some defensive shape.
“We’ve still got (former Wales Sevens player) Matt Pewtner in charge of the backline and attack play and I think the players are starting to get on the same hymn sheet in terms of the training field, now it’s about transforming it onto the field and a game situation.
“I and the players are just glad the season’s here. We’ve had two good runouts, against Sarries and the club memorial game.
“The boys have been in the gym since June. We’ve got some really good numbers and some quality new additions.
“Although the numbers aren’t as massive as they were last season the quality has risen.
“We’ve brought in some new players which will raise competition and that’s so important. The last thing a coach wants is for guys to be coasting in their shirts.”
One huge blow ahead of the season is the news that club captain, stalwart and UAE international Dave Knight will miss the entire campaign with injury.
“Dave is out for the season with neck and shoulder injuries, so that’s a big blow but hopefully someone can fill his shoes,” he added.
Know more about Sport360 Application