Scottish old boys reach Dubai final
The veterans team, backed by the Aberdeen-based Xodus Group energy consultancy, is coached by former Scotland chief Frank Hadden and includes Scotland caps Craig Smith, Gavin Kerr, Robbie Russell, Marcus di Rollo as well as a league of nations in Test stars Caleb Ralph and Keith Lowen (New Zealand), Thinus Delport (South Africa), Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe (Argentina) and Oriol Ripol (Spain).
They kicked off today by beating a Crusaders team also led by a Scottish forward, Duncan Wilson, the former Currie front row who has recovered from a brain tumour and is leading the invitational team’s bid to raise awareness of the symptoms of testicular and prostate cancer.
He admitted: “It was tough coming up against the reigning champions, but this is a great event. For me personally it’s just great to be here at all, but the Crusaders are a great club that is doing great things for cancer awareness and we have had a great tournament.”
The Steelers scored tries through Delport (2), Ripol and former Ireland A scrum-half Ben Willis to win 26-0 and moved on to the semi-finals, but that was a different matter as they came up against last year’s finalists Christina Noble Charity Foundation, who won the title here five years in a row before being unseated by the Steelers last year.
History repeated itself, but in the last four stage, but defences ruled in an extremely tight affair only broken by another Delport finish after great lead-up work by Ripol and Ralph. The team stayed pitchside to watch what turned out to be another tight match.
The J9 Foundation team, put together by Joost van der Westhuizen to raise money for motor neurone research after he was struck down with the disease, featured former Wallaby Stephen Larkham, Waisale Serevi and Colin Charvis, among others, and they were up against ‘Joining Jack’, a team of former Wigan rugby league players captained by Andy Farrell, the England and recent British and Irish Lions backs coach. Joining Jack won the pool match between the sides yesterday, but watched by Van der Westhuizen, J9 came good this time with Serevi scoring the third and final try in a good win to set up a final meeting with the Steelers on the main pitch tomorrow (3.25pm local time).
Steelers skipper Jason White said: “We are really looking forward to it. We weren’t at our best today for some reason, but we have a great team spirit and the guys are really enjoying playing for each other, and the chance to play on the main pitch in front of 50,000 people is something that gets these guys going. But it’s going to be tough because J9 have a good team too.”