Kenya Sevens finally break the duck winning the Singapore Sevens Main Cup

A shimmy here and dummy there – Sunday 17th April, 2016 marked a watershed moment for Kenyan sport. The Kenya Sevens Rugby team better known as Shujaa overcome current IRB 7s table leaders Fiji 30-7 to win the  Singapore Sevens Main Cup.

Take a quick pix- Kenya’s Shujaa – Singapore Sevens 2016 champions – image courtesy of www.stuff.co.nz

Having made two previous main cup finals in 2009 and 2013 respectively, the Kenyan side has slowly been creeping up on the bigger and more favoured teams for awhile. The HSBC IRB 2015-16 season too has been a mixed basket with the Kenyan team with posting a number of strong performances in the group stages only to falter at the quarters of the main cups.
Even in Singapore, the team had started well beating Russia, before tying with Scotland and losing to fellow Africans Blitzbokke from South Africa. Thanks to the other teams falters, the team’s determination got its redemption moving into the quarters (against France) and semis (against Argentina).
Collins Injera also won Man of the Match as he also sought to close in on the akk
Not belabouring these points, the team now looks primed to finish in the top 6 places of the HSBC IRB 7s rankings if they are able to reach the semis in the remaining 2 legs in Paris and London. The final position will definitely put Shujaa team in a prime position for a medal place in the Rio Olympics Games in August.
For now though, let’s savour the historic win after 140 tournaments, 2 previous finals, we are the CHAMPIONS!

Here’s a sneak peak of how major new outlets reported it;
BBC ;

Kenya shocked Fiji 30-7 in the final of the Singapore Rugby Sevens to claim their first World Series title. It took Kenya 140 tournaments to finally break their duck and they are only the second African nation after South Africa to win a World Series leg.

 SkySports:

Kenya pulled off a stunning 30-7 victory over Fiji in the final of the Singapore Sevens to capture their first World Series event and join the growing list of contenders for the Olympic gold medal in Rio. The East Africans, who had twice finished runner-up in tournaments, blew the Fijians off the park with six tries in the first-half, including two by Collins Injera who took his career tally to 228 touchdowns, just two behind Argentina’s Santiago Gomez Cora’s world record of 230.

FoxSports:

KENYA has stunned the sevens world with an epic upset of Fiji in the cup final in Singapore. The unfancied Kenyans destroyed the world series leaders 30-7 — delivering the African nation their first major sevens title after losing the cup final in three previous tournaments. Kenya scored six tries — all unconverted — with stalwart Collins Injera nabbing a double.

And finally CNN’s interview with Collins Injera on his exploits thus far as he tries to breaking the all-time try scoring with CNN’s Christina MacFarlane;

Kenya Sevens – Seven Top Moments of the Rugby 7s team

2016 marks a momentous year for the game of rugby and in particular the shorter version in the Sevens. Taking a look at both the 2015/2016 IRB Sevens Series and the Olympic Games in Rio in August, Kenya’s team is well-placed to claim its place and maybe rewrite history too…
20 years ago, the Kenya 7s affectionately known as Kenya Shujaa team journey started in earnest as one of the most exciting and hard-working teams in the rugby series. It also marked a start of its major sporting event in Kenya in the Safari Sevens. Through this storied past, we have decided to take a sneak peek of the top 7 moments of the game in the last 20 years since it gained prominence in this part of the world.


[NOTE: This is no scientific list and its given its order more by the chronology of events.]

1. Kenya qualifies for 3rd Edition of Rugby Sevens World Cup (2001) in Argentina

It had taken about 5 years to build a formidable team. The team had played as an invitational team at the Middlesex 7s,  Commonwealth Games in 1998, as as Dubai and Stellenbosch legs of the inaugural IRB Sevens series in 1999. The Safari Sevens also worked to whip up local team support and appetite for the game, as well as expose the team to opposition of similar experience.
At the third edition of the Rugby Sevens World Cup, Kenya announced its entry into the global stage.
From Africa there were its more fancied counterparts in South Africa and Zimbabwe. Though the team didn’t score any victories thus finishing last in the Pool (along with Fiji, Argentina, South Korea, Russia and Ireland), they did play in the Bowl beating France 12-5 before losing in the semis to Chile.

2. Kenya beats Australia – Hong Kong Sevens (2002) – IRB Sevens Series 2002/2003

Following good outings in 2001 and 2002 in various invitational tournaments and the Commonwealth Games, Shujaa team was slowly cementing its place in the game. In 2002 at Wellington 7s in New Zealand, Kenya caused a major upset topping Australia 15-12. By the end of the IRB series, Kenya was placed in the ninth position finishing within the top 10 bracket.

Ben Ayimba’s a coming for you…Image courtesy of www.kenyapage.net

The performances in this season helped the team’s campaign in becoming a core team of the IRB Sevens Series in 2004. The series usually comprises of 15 ‘core’ teams named each season depending on their experience and performance of past seasons.

3. Kenya finishes joint 3rd at 5th Edition of Rugby Sevens World Cup (2009) in Dubai,UAE
Come 2009, the Shujaa team was enjoying a rare era of success despite having a semi-professional team. It had managed to groom some great talent that even one of its players became coach and helped it one of its best seasons ever.
That player was none other than Benjamin Ayimba. Initial skepticism coming from many quarters was quickly vanquished when the team reached 7 out of 9 semi-finals and 1 final of the IRB series. In H. Kayange and C. Injera, the team had two players who came of age and produced try after try.

In the same year, the Rugby Sevens World Cup was held in Dubai, UAE. They played in a tight pool consisting of England, Tunisia and Hong Kong emerging second.  The team scored a major win over Fiji beating them 26-7 in the quarter-finals, before losing out to Argentina in the semi-finals. The team would finish joint 3rd with Samoa.

These accomplishments saw the team’s Collins Injera and Humphrey Kayange awarded the Order of the Golden Warrior (OGW) by the Head of State for their role.

4. Kenya beats New Zealand  AND
Kenya reaches Final  of Wellington Sevens (2013) – IRB Sevens Series 2012/2013

2010 and 2011 were tough years for the team and the mixed performances had the Kenya Rugby Union and sponsors influence the hiring of the management team. On the field though, Kenya Shujaa had by now become a crowd favourite and attracting attention across the series tournaments.
Once again, at the Wellington 7s, the team bested a top seed this time ,the hosts New Zealand in a memorable game. The game ended 19-14 to mark Kenya’s first roll into a Final.

In the final, Kenya was primed to play England – so much for patriotism on the side of coach Mike Friday who’s English native. If the semi-final game was a toughee, the final was a cracker and nerve-wrecking affair, requiring extra-time to be decided. And were it not for captain Andrew Amonde and Oscar Ouma being sin-binned, maybe it would have gone either way…see below;

5. Kenya finishes 5th in IRB Sevens Series for 2012/2013

Sterling performance by Kenya Shujaa finishing in its best ever position , 5th in the IRB Series deserves a mention. Given Mike Friday’s hard work with the team (we all remember how massive they all suddenly looked even for winger Collins ‘Collo’ Injera who had a tough season with the cancellation of his contract).
There were suddenly vested interests in the game some being from the Board and also the interference with the management and contractual issues. This notwithstanding the team put in its best boot forward.

6. Kenya finishes 4th in 6th Edition of Rugby Sevens World Cup (2013) in Russia

The team’s performance in the IRB series meant the team was girded with positive energy going into the Luzhniki stadium, Moscow, Russia. The most outstanding had winger Willy Ambaka being voted into the IRB Series for 2012/13 Dream Team. Pool C pitted Kenya against Samoa, African rivals-Zimbabwe and Philippines. The team topped the pool and advanced to the quarters beating France 24-19. Once again Mike Friday’s charges were to face a familiar foe, England. It was another closely-contested game ending 12-5 for the English.

Willy Ambaka whizzes past a New Zealand player – image courtesy of AFP

With the team seemingly disappointed to have to play in the third-place play-off, they lost 29-5 to the Fijians. What was worse was the how the management were treated with Friday tendering his resignation as the obnoxious now became putrid. His departure marked the end of a fairy tale season and downward trajectory of the team for the next two seasons.

7. Kenya qualifies for Olympic Games in Rio (2016)

Having endured a rough 2013/2014 and 2014/2015, the Kenyan team had one last chance to redeem itself. The change of technical bench from Paul Treu to former international Felix Totty Ochieng had not brought back the spark to the team’s performance. Many even started questioning if the team still deserved to be accorded the ‘core team’ status. It was a trying time indeed with the 2015 Safari Sevens – which usually serves as a warm-up to the team’s IRB series – having the lowest attendance ever in recent times. Tournament sponsor Safaricom had earlier in the year withdrawn its support meaning the 7s circuit was a dour affair leading to the scenario described above in the Safari Sevens.
The 2014/15 season was used to select automatic qualification to the 2016 Olympics. This was given to the top 4 teams at the end of the season. Kenya missed this badly and had to settle for the African Olympic qualifiers.
A few positives though were the return of Richard Omwela to head the Kenya Rugby Union. Choosing to go retro and nostalgic the Board chose Ben Ayimba to steady the ship. The team also had a mix of talent bringing on board tested players as well as grooming the new talent for the 2015/2016 busy season.
In the Final of the qualifiers, Kenya faced arch-rival Zimbabwe. The latter looked like they had secured the place scoring a try in the dying seconds, almost putting the game beyond Kenya’s reach. However a moment of inspiration from speedy Dennis Ombachi saved the day and as they say the rest is ….watch below;

Quick Notes:

  1. Kenya Rugby Union officials have indicated they have worked on the players contracts and they can rest easy as they play in the Series for 2016.
  2. Collins Injera  will be chasing more tries seeking to catch Argentina’s Santiago Gomez’s tally of 230 tries and England’s Ben Gollings 220 tries.Possible? Who knows…

Semper fortis Kenya Shujaa !!!

Can Kenya Rugby 7s sustain the tempo, Mr. Friday?

The 2012-13 HSBC-sponsored IRB Sevens series has started with oomph for the Kenyan team. Last season, the team finished 12th ( last for the initial 12 -core teams) and risked being dropped from the ‘core teams’ status ( core teams are guaranteed of participation to all tournaments within a given season). Starting this season, IRB has introduced a new set of rules which shall see teams promoted and relegated depending on their final ranking at the end of the season. The series also saw expansion of the initial core teams from 12 to 15.
Back to the Kenyan game, in the off-season, Britain’s former rugby player and coach, Mike Friday was hired to bring back some technical expertise and polish the Kenyan game known for its pace and brashness. After missing out on the Safari Sevens shield it seemed like it was 2011-12 season all over again but the last 2 rounds of the series have proved otherwise. So far the team lies joint 2nd overall (with Fiji) with a total amass of 32 points.


South Africa beckons 

The three Kenya 7s Rugby shirts by Samurai Sportswear
Image courtesy of Samurai Sports

The last event of the series this calendar year in South Africa shall represent a new set of challenge for Mike Friday’s charges. First the absence of top try scorer Collins Injera along with experienced hands Biko Adema and Oscar Ouma is bound to be felt. Sydney Ashioya is also out with a hamstring injury. A temporary reprieve is the availability of Humphrey Kayange ( Injera’s older brother) who shall be featuring for the national team colours for the first time this season. Call-ups to replace the former include; Billy Odhiambo, Fabian Olando and Oscar Ayondi.

Second, the team has already been seen to be a strong contender for the top 6 finishers and other teams have taken notice. This being the 3rd round you can expect a couple of tactical changes from those teams that have previously looked like walkovers. Though the pool looks favourable with Argentina and Wales being the main threats to clip Kenya’s qualification to the Main Cup proper, the battle shall be from the Quarter and Semi-Finals respectively. The Kenyan team has been coming off too close in the finishing and decisive tackles. The conversion kicks have been off the mark especially in the Dubai series. The try-scoring

Third, the South African round is only the third in a 10-tournament series. Can the Kenyan team go the whole hog and sustain these sterling performances? It’s been a good thing going but a dip in form might happen anywhere between the Christmas break ( January 2013) and the second one in April 2013. If the boys and technical team keep it together, we’ve got a good thing going. In any case, if Kenya can gun for a top 6 finish in any of the tournament’s that translates to 12 points in the bag.
Points Awarded:
Top 6 finishers in each tournament are awarded points as follows;

  • Cup Winners (1st) -22 points, 
  • Cup Losers (2nd) -19 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff winner (3rd) -17 points, 
  • Cup 3rd-place playoff/loser (4th) – 15 points, 
  • Plate Winner (5th) – 13 points, 
  • Plate Runner-Ups (6th) – 12 points

Fourth, there was some change in the kit from Gilbey’s to the Samurai shirts starting with the Dubai series. This though not a major concern ought to be addressed and finalised by Kenya Rugby Union officials. Shirt sponsorship should ensure that the team has unique identity and also serve to motivate them to improve their performance. There is also the added incentive of monetary amounts if well negotiated. Such details ought to be out in the public domain and not behind boardroom doors.

Fifth, there has been the remuneration and bonuses awarded by the team sponsors’ Kenya Airways and also for finishing in the top 4. These monies should be paid as and when available to continually motivate the boys in the team. Donning national colours is a great honour but in this time and age, that honour has a price too. Being a semi-professional team aspiring to become fully professional in the next half-decade, substantive contracts with clear remuneration packages should be in every player’s pocket.

Sixth rugby sevens will be premiering in the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Kenya is one of the likely qualifiers from Africa and should ensure it sends the best team to the Games. Though its early days for that, the building blocks start now since over half the team might not be in the running for a place by then. This goes back to the Kenya Rugby Union officials. Ensure wider reach of the game, rigorous recruitment by the clubs, regular technical and development skills to the retiring players and practising coaches, additional investment through sponsorships and grants from relevant corporate bodies and sports bodies among others.

Finally, the same gusto that has been invested in the 7s game should be translated to the 15s game which is still tottering in Kenya. Remember rugby aficionados believe that a country’s worth is known by its 15-a-side strength and depth. Are we working on this?

To Mr.Friday and the Kenyan team, Ngikufisela Inhlanhla in Port Elizabeth !

Kenya Rugby 7s – The Good, the Bad & the UGALI…

This weekend marked the final outing for the Kenyan Rugby 7s team in the 2011/12 IRB 7s circuit series. This season marked one of the worst outings the team has had in recent years. And though many would have loved for the team to make better showing this was not to be:

Willy Ambaka – Kenya Rugby not yet there…

The Good
First though, we commend the technical team managing the national team for ensuring that a wide array of players got exposed to the game this season. The team avoided last year’s dilemma of rotating among a small pool of players and extended this to younger and upcoming ones.
Secondly, the corporate sponsors have practiced patience with the team which is a boon for Kenyan sport. Many a times when a team is on transition, corporate support becomes hard to come by but for this they have managed to keep up the monies – though we don’t know for how long they will be patient with dismal performances…
Managing a transitional team is NOT the easiest thing and Mitch Ocholla & Charles Cardovillis have managed amidst a tough outing from the rest of the teams. The middle-tier level teams such as Canada, Portugal, Scotland, Wales and United States have all styled up and stepped up their game.

The Bad
The now-old Kenya Rugby Union office bearers elected last year came in with a lot of gusto much to the chagrin of rugby enthusiasts and managers of the game. Though there was need to infuse some new hands to play various roles in ensuring the 7s game progressed well, the ‘rough’ treatment accorded to the then technical bench led by Ben Ayimba was not good. The experiences they had were needed to ensure the team didn’t start from scratch. They would have also come in handy with the team selection for the national team and a proper analysis done on each player after each tournament.
The fact that the officials came in trumpeting the fact that they would like to professionalize the 7s team, little has been done beyond the word-of-mouth. It would have served the Union officials better if they explained that they’re working towards such a framework in a gradual process.

The Ugali
Though this was a tad bit exaggerated by the media, the issue of players’ allowances and pay did come out. We don’t know how far the Union has managed to work around this but it demotivates the players to find that their dues are not coming as it ought to.

The technical team at times seemed to be groping in the dark and out of depth in the team selection. It was never supposed to be like this for a team playing in its 9th year of the IRB 7s World Series.

Going forward though, KRU officials need to come to terms with the fact that there is need to infuse more professional and tactical abilities in the game at national and international level. There is also need to conduct continuous clinics around the country and within the residential camps to offer fresh talent and renew the abilities of existing players.
As for going professional, it is a medium to longer term effort which will need more resources not just in finances but also infrastructure; from playing fields, to feeder clubs from the national 7s circuit.
If Kenya hopes to restore its place in the top 10 of the IRB Sevens World Series, KRU officials the honeymoon was surely over a long time ago. Gird thy loins & work the magic NOW!

UPDATES:

Friday 25th May and Kenya Rugby Union is reported to have disbanded the Kenya 7s team, both playing unit and the technical team. If these reports are true, then this IS NOT the way forward that we had recommended.
Also the intended hire of a foreign coach for the technical bench might not bode well for the game. We question why over 10 years of experience in the 7s game would not produce a localised solution to the management team.

A foreign coach, means more money, more time to understand the local scene and also less responsibility on his part in case the team doesn’t perform at par. We all know what has happened to the cricket game, let’s not repeat this in rugby PLEASE! 

Rugby in Kenya – All that Glitters is NOT GOLD…but please put the SHINE BACK!

Up until late last year, the rugby fraternity had been one of the best managed sports federation in Kenya in any of the country’s sporting disciplines. It had ( and continues) attracting major corporate sponsorship and has slowly edged to the upper echelons of sporting excellence thanks in large to the role the Kenya 7s team has played in increasing our visibility both local and international.


Charlatans?
But with such exposure comes the very REAL possibility of attracting charlatans and hawks busy to reap where they didn’t sow. It is also characteristic of one of Kenya’s tragedy both in public and private business where those in charge are busy thinking of what is there to take out instead of being part of revenue and income generation.
When the new office at Kenya Rugby Union came into place, many were happy to see some smooth transition between former office bearers and current holders, another rare feat in Kenya’s sporting bodies. But some were not entirely impressed and those in the rugby circles claim that seeing a former official from the ‘mtaa clubs’ ( apparently rugby clubs also have their own classification thanks to inheriting our former colonial masters social structures) taking over top office was  not amusing. Again it was felt that rugby had ‘crossed over’ to those without the rich and deserved heritage of the game in Kenya. On that one, the jury’s still out there…
But over time, heads started rolling along with the usual semantics played to the media about making the game more professional as well as appealing to the lesser known parts of the country. There was also the quick change made to the Kenyan rugby calendar which still didn’t raise much noise. Among the events affected was its premiere event the Safari 7s.


Crux
Then came the clincher when the KRU officials and organisers decided to shift the Safari 7s from its traditional home at the RFUEA Grounds along Ngong Road to the Nyayo National Stadium. This caused all sorts of noises from rugby purists and more discomfort to the organisers. But the beauty of having corporate backing is the financial and logistical muscle they can muster. And the event passed on without incidence and those in attendance loved the showpiece.
But the worms had to crawl out of the woodwork once it became apparent that there were some deals made under the table and the revenues coming from the Safari 7s seriously dented even after a reported improved attendance of about 19,000 fans for the 3-day extravaganza. The dailies were all too happy to splash these headlines as seen here.
Last weekend though brought more dissent from the clubs ( among them Kenya Harlequins,Homeboyz, Impala RFC, KCB RFC, Nondiescripts RUFC and Nakuru RFC) which opposed the expanded Kenya Cup which was to start last weekend and which now seems to be in limbo after these clubs formed what they call the ‘Rugby Enterprise Limited‘. Our informal discussions with rugby insiders inform us the expanded Kenya Cup would mean more fixtures for all the clubs especially to the Western region in Nyanza and Kakamega. Not that they wouldn’t do it but most clubs have not had much financial streams and sponsorship as much as the national side (both 7s and 15s) and it would put much strain to their meagre resources.
It is also seen by most as a some sort of impunity by top officials when clubs which had been relegated are suddenly back in the top fold, negating the role of the Kenya Cup knock-out fixtures and diminishing Eric Shirley’s significance.


Remedy
One of the quickest things that Kenya Rugby Union would have to do soonest is to ‘gorge out the rot from the wound before it makes their limb weak‘. By this we say call that Extra-ordinary General Meeting that has been pending and let clubs and officials alike iron out those issues before they become any worse. Not that it’s going to be the easiest thing to do, but once such mechanisms are in place they help avoid major schisms in the overall running of the Union.
Secondly, its is time that the Kenya Rugby Union started working and appearing to be a unit with the top officials having regular briefs say every 2 weeks to let the public and discerning rugby fan of the game’s going-ons. Bad PR is not good for any organisation worth its salt and the bad press the Union can be undone by such briefings. It is also sad that there seems to be leakage of information both true and false which makes it hard to know what works and what doesn’t.
Third, it would be fair to appease clubs and seek to understand their challenges and not necessary bull-dozing rulings or proposals to expand any of the tournaments or leagues. The very existence of the game is because of the league structures in place and once these break down, the rest is just a shell which amounts to nothing. Work to see the feeder programmes for the clubs are in place and the lower teams learn from more established sides.
Fourth, if the Kenya Rugby Union officials were uncomfortable with those running the day-to-day happenings at the Union’s office, they would have vetted them and those not found able asked to transition slowly to those  newly appointed. The minute you start ‘wrecking’ every known structure and establishing your own set, it shows hostility and even those not in the wrong will start viewing you with suspicion. The office’s staff are quickly deteriorating into some disillusioned personnel and that’s not the best way to start your 2011-12 year.
With the 7s team about to start the IRB 7s 2011-12 circuit, there was the expected changes made both to the technical and actual team. It is tough to set a team and it is even tougher to hold one which needs to meet the expectations of its citizenry and the continent. The team has a tough call seeking to restore its place as one of the best sides not in the traditional top 4 of the IRB teams. Mind you the happenings at the office and the bad Press will most definitely affect their morale and game going forward.

And finally to the sporting fraternity in Kenya, do we always have to shoot ourselves in the foot when we have good thing going? And also when are we ever going to see corrupt and inept sports officials charged and hauled to courts and made to pay for their misgivings? Maybe when we see a few necks hung we shall be more careful with the way we run sport…

Safaricom Safari 7s 2011 – Hit or Miss?

This year’s Safari 7s in its second year under Safaricom’s sponsorship stable marked one of another’s Kenya major milestones on the sporting calendar (notice how Safari 7s and Safaricom 7s sound synonymous…?). We managed to spend at least a better part of the weekend following the action live and seeing the activity on both social and other media. Here’s our take;
Hit: Venue
Most of the controversy plaguing the event was the shift of the venue from its traditional home at RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road to the more spacious ground at Nyayo National Stadium. The beauty of it was the space available for fans; service providers who included caterers, entertainment and parking lot. This was evident from the concert held on tail-ends of all days as they engaged the discerning younger-at-heart crowd. For security purposes too, the stadium was an easier venue for the security apparatus though at times the security personnel got over-zealous in their searches.
The pitch was a little bumpy of course due to the fact that it hosts most of the Kenya Premier League games but it was well-maintained and the markings and extensions done in good time to save rugby players adjusting. The warm-up areas were also a welcome relief for all teams before and after each game.

Miss: VIP, Canopy please?
For those who paid a little extra for VIP, except for the plastic seats and some partial cover from stadium setting, there really wasn’t much else to write home about. In fact some of those who were at the ‘Russian stands’ seemed to enjoy more of the happenings on the grounds. Also when it came to the elements, majority of the crowd was exposed especially when the rains descended on the grounds on Sunday. For future events, event organisers can source some form of canopies which can be drawn and retracted as and when necessary.

Hit: Ticketing
For sometime now the ticketing for the event had been on an upward movement but somehow the crowds still managed to make way to the former venue. Maybe it was the mystic of the game or the euphoria related to the Kenya Sevens team. This year, the ticketing was well-tiered, affordable and also offered various points of purchase. Some are of the opinion that the prices should go down further but economies of scale and recouping for organisers and KRU suggest otherwise.

Miss: Top Teams, Main Guest
While we saw the likes of Samoa in town to the Samurais and Auckland Vikings (who make up much of the Fijian and New Zealand national 7s teams), it would have been better to have more IRB circuit teams on board. We have also seen the likes of Chester Williams, Gordon Tietjens to name but a few who have proved to be star attractions for those who follow the international game. It had been rumoured that there would be a big name coming but alas.

Hit: Media Centre
For those who got lucky to access the media centre, it had a great working environment. Equipped with handy laptops with fairly good Internet speeds, the place was always a buzz with activity. Save for a few big egos who hogged workstations for hours on end, those who were in it for their professional jobs found a quick way to upload information, images and keep those not at the venue abreast with the developments. Also compared to last year’s one, this one didn’t suffer from the elements when the weather suddenly pulled suprises on all. Kudos too to the catering teams for keeping the media peoples well-fed & watered!

Miss: Kenyan Team not making the Finals
Well, this was not entirely suprising for any follower of the national team. This was the first outing for the technical team marshalled by one Mitch Ocholla (Twitter handle @mokojolo) deputised by Charles Cardovillis. Both individuals have their work cut out now from this showing. Also the boys in the team were slow off the blocks due to minimal play since the team reassembled. There were individual touches and plays but as a team, there is lots of work to be done. The Gold Coast Sevens fixtures are real baptism of fire, but if that’s not what you need I don’t know what else you will.

Hit: Time Management
Most tournaments and events of such magnitude usually fail largely to lack of time management. Many who came thinking that fixtures and games would be delayed due to one reason or the other were shocked. Except for the last day when the downpour almost made it impossible for the pitch, the games went on and finished on time. Day 2 and Day 3 being the main attraction were well-managed and ended in good time. The Final was held and done by 6p.m.( even the trophy presentation too). Kudos to KRU on this one!

Miss: Corporate Sponsors Lost?
Some of the corporate sponsors had some great banners and logos on the communication both on print and other media. But most did not utilise it to the best of their abilities. This is a question posed to marketing and brand managers, when you seek to sponsor a major event of such magnitude surely you don’t expect the event organisers to also ‘sell your communication’ and/or ‘promote your products’. Still on corporate sponsors, where were the Brand Kenya and other bodies promoting Kenya as a destination ?

Hit: Live Coverage:
For some who had thought the ball had gone from SuperSport, how wrong you were! They not only brought in some of their best hands in broadcasting but also had the games live on SS9 throughout the tournament. And for those who managed to catch it, it was a beautiful sight to behold. We had our own gents and ladies handling the pre and post-game interviews (including one Herbert Mwachiro @herbotawa & a lady who’s name eludes me, but has a great voice and looks to match…)

Some Hope:
– Hoping to stage a circuit leg in the IRB Sevens Series , this is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done. Majorly attracting bigger teams, attracting more fans and also more investment by corporate sponsors. This will make it easier to attract and pay for premium services and promises to give a boost to event organisers.
– Still on the venue, some die-hard fans felt that the game’s been taken away from them, since the playing area was slightly further from the fans stands. The same comment too came from some of the players. But this being a first, we shall hope to see more fans streaming in next year to give it that electric aura. And as one Mr. Jack Ojiambo ( he of Capital FM 98.4 Jazz Club) said, each one of the participants took something with them and shall be ambassadors of the event wherever they go across the globe. 
– Also there were some unconfirmed reports that rugby authorities might consider taking the Safari 7s to Kasarani which is almost complete from renovations. We hope it is just that because another change of venue will surely see fans down to a trickle and display apathy to new settings.
All in all ,we enjoyed ourselves and hope the Kenyan rugby 7s team now embarks on some serious rebuilding to get their act together by 25th November to start the challenge for 2011-2012 IRB Sevens Series. Over to you Mitch and the Co!

For some interesting images from the weekend action check this link , http://japho1.blogspot.com/

Kenya Rugby 7s Circuit….do we have the pedigree?

With the 4th round (Kabeberi Sevens) of a 5 rounds of the Kenya Rugby 7s series over at RFUEA yesterday, the Kenya Rugby Union officials and technical team for the national 7s team are almost set on who makes the cut.
There being a change in the Kenya Rugby Union to accommodate changes in the Safari 7s tournament among other major tournaments in the rugby calendar, it will be interesting to see how the players are able to adjust and pick themselves up from last year’s dismal performance at the IRB Sevens World Series circuit.

A lot has changed since the close of the season early this year, from a team of new officials to the new management team along with corporate sponsorships making positive entreaties to the game.

A provisional squad was named by new coach Mitch Ocholla and includes;

Dennis Muhanji, Kevin Keegan, Naftali Bondo, Nick Barasa, Patrice Agunda, Sydney Ashioya, Victor Oduor, William Ambaka(Quins); Collins Injera,Dennis Ombachi,Horace Otieno,Humphrey Khayange, LavinAsego, Mike Agevi ( Mwamba); Adrian Opondo, Felix Ayange, Michael Wanjala, Tony Onyango ( Strathmore); Andrew Amonde, Fabian Olando, Philip Wamae (KCB); Kennedy Moseti, Oscar Ayodi ( Homeboyz), Lawrence Buyachi, Peter Ocholla (Impala); Edwin Makori, Oscar Ouma (Nakuru); and Ben Nyambu, Charles Kanyi (Nondies).

New call-ups include Mike Agevi who completes a 3rd of the 3 rugby brothers Kayange and Injera , Adrian Opondo and Michael Wanjala of university outfit Strathmore which has been playing some of its best rugby among higher learning institutions and challenging the big boys too. It was also coached by Mitch Ocholla before his current new post.

It will be interesting to see how these players fare in the final 7s tournament in Mombasa at the Driftwood Sevens and how soon they can gel to be able to retain the Safari Sevens sponsored by Safaricom. It will be a good start to their IRB 7s calendar as we seek to get back to the top 6 7s playing nations.

IN OTHER NEWS:
During last week’s announcement by Safaricom 7s of their sponsorships of the Safari Sevens, the Kenya Rugby Union Chair had the pleasure ( tongue-in-cheek…tsk, tsk, tsk) of the shift from the traditional RFUEA Grounds along Ngong Road to the Nyayo National Stadium known more for its footballing and athletics hosting than rugby.
This was not too much of a suprise given the venue hosted the Kenya v/s Zimbabwe Victoria Cup game earlier this year.
The Kenyan social media critiques went into overdrive and even launched a Facebook page The Home for Kenyan Rugby is RFUEA not Nyayo . The merits given for the move was to demystify the game and make it more appealing to the common man. It was because the RFUEA Grounds have been stretched in the last couple of years with a bulging crowd which makes it a logistical nightmare.
The KRU Chair also added that if Safari Sevens is to challenge for consideration to be added in the IRB Sevens World Series calendar, there is need for a proper venue and the sampling is to be done at Nyayo Stadium.
We made a little more scrapping and we learnt these are the figures at current IRB 7s circuit venues;

1. Gold Coast 7s: – Skilled Park (formerly Robina Stadium) : 27,400 seater
2. Dubai 7s :- The Sevens (stadium) : 50,000 seater

3. South Africa 7s :- Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium : 48,000
4. Wellington 7s:- Westpac Trust Stadium: 36,000
5. US 7s :- Sam Boyd Stadium: 36,800 expandable to 40,000
6. Hong Kong 7s :- Hong Kong Stadium: 40,000
7. Japan 7s :- Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium : 27,188
8. Edinburgh 7s :-Murrayfiedl Stadium: 67,130
9. England/London 7s: – Twickenham Stadium: 82,000

If you look at all those venues, the lowest is at 27,188 in Japan where the game is taking root just like Kenya. Most of these are designed for multi-purposes hosting more than just rugby, with 5 specifically designed to host rugby games. Hope this helps KRU in its decision to approach infrastructural developers from private and Government circles.

Rugby 7s – Time Kenya opened a new page

The IRB 7s season came to an end last weekend and Kenya finished off with some consolation seeing off Scotland in Edinburgh winning the Bowl and placing just within the top 10 of the IRB 7s playing nations rooster. A lot had been said about the team last season after faltering in a few tournaments coming close to the Main Finals but not quite making the cut. This year even the Bowl(s) were somewhat of an aspiration more than anything else.
True the boys exceeded all expectation in the 2008-9 season finishing 6th in the IRB rankings and discovering the exploits of Collins Injera(who finished top try scorer with  42 of these) and his elder brother Humphrey Kayange. Sidekicks such as Biko Adema, Lavin Asego,Gibson Weru along with the rest of the team have been doing their best representing a country which plays at best semi-professional 7s rugby.
The technical aspects; strength and speed training have all seemed to have taken a back seat or the technical bench has somehow run out of ideas. Watching the last tournament in Edinburg had screams for the many unforced errors that the team made and they better watch this over and over again as they start turning a new leaf.

Humphrey Kayange & his charges in the 7s team

Our humble suggestion is that the better team has seen the best of their playing days and its time there is some new talent infused to the playing unit. Between now and November we shall be having the local 7s circuit and the national team management better sharpen their pencils and draw up some great and budding talent. Next up the whole training regimen truly needs a spruce up. There might be need to consult more experienced sides like South Africa -which is Africa’s biggest bet in the game and who might be closer home than any of the other sides.
Talking of playing unit, the Kenya Rugby Union has promised to look into the possibility of turning the team fully professional. It might be not be such an easy sell given their performance in the last 2 seasons, but if well put it could serve as selling point too. The new Board may also need to seek a change in the team management and offer chance to personnel who will bring something new and fresh into the 7s team. Total dismal might not be a great idea but if done in phases it might be a boon to the team.
The new officials at KRU might also need to do less talking now and dirty their hands in the pitch and look to expand the fishing net to wider areas across the country. The usual hunts in Western and Nyanza provinces along with the usual Nairobi area are top favourites but you never know where the next Mwanja, Sudi or Ashioya comes from if the game is expanded to other regions in the Coastal, Central and Rift regions. Time we turn a new page Mr. Muthee and team…

Rugby 7s National Circuit starts…shall this dent Kenya’s preparations to Commonwealth Games

The local rugby scene comes alive again with the start of the 7s circuit starting with the Christie 7s. This being the breeding grounds of our national 7s teams, conflicting information has it that the Kenya Rugby Union intended for the Kenyan national team players to be excluded from the initial tournaments to enable them prepare for the October Commonwealth Games in India.
Given that quite a number of teams in the Commonwealth Games also feature in the IRB circuit, the concern of the national office is an important thing to note. The local clubs have argued otherwise with some contenders such as Mwamba having 4 of their key players in the national team. With the release of the players for them to feature in the opening event ( there are 5 events in the 7s circuit proudly sponsored by Western Union), we do hope other players in the clubs shall make an impression to beef up the national team which in serious need of raise after the 2009/10 under par showing in the IRB series.
The Commonwealth Games shall also serve as a good curtain-raiser but surely hope the players do not suffer burn-out from over-exposure in the number of games to be played throughout from 2010 to 2011.

Safaricom Safari Sevens – Final Take Out !

Though coming in late, we preview what our take on this budding rugby tournament that has slowly come of age. There was plenty to bite on over the 3 days that the sporting extravaganza was held at the RFUEA Grounds on Ngong Road. Allow us to fill you in;
a) Growth :- Starting from the 1990s, the event has seen its growth to become a major mark on the sporting calendar of the Kenyan scene. That the grounds could command numbers in excess of 10,000 for the last 2 days, is no mean feat. There are also the different invitations extended to the secondary and lower levels which is encouraging as these aspire to be the Injeras and Ademas of this world.
On stunted growth, it is fair to say that the competition has yet to attract competitive sides such as New Zealands All Blacks, Samoans or even the Springboks of South Africa on a regular basis. This is an area that the Kenya Rugby Union needs to work on to make it possible to competitively bid for a place in the IRB circuit series in case they extend the current 8 to a potential 10 or more tournaments – of course if they need more exposure for the game by 2016.

b) Infrastructure – the grounds were resplendent with lots of corporate colours from this or that company. This is a big boon and an even interesting prospect is the fact that there are some energy and resource saving solutions that are being explored by the corporate firms which see it not just as an investment but a way to utilise innovation – a case in point Lister Petter.
There is also the added value that new sponsors have brought on board investing in fan stands and other necessary structures to ensure the teams have a peaceful game on the pitch. Companies in Kenya must learn that sports MUST be part of their investment plans and NOT some CRS- corporate social responsibility programme – loathe that term !
The one worry though is that of the grounds were intended to host a bigger and more competitive, investing in bigger sitting space, better parking grounds, floodlights in case of playing on the early evening or night and such features. The security though improved can be better, as we saw on the last day when a streaker ran the full length of the pitch half-naked.

c) Media liaison and centre – It’s been awhile to see such well co-ordinated communication for the media and the centre for reporting and interview booths. Though the usual case of some prima donnas ( thanks to working for certain media organisations, some individuals definitely think they are bigger than life – the basics is to get the unattending fan to catch up on the game and get the job done – period. All else is just secondary….) who almost gave a bad name to the place, with the demands for this or that favour. There was also the case of constant reprieves from organisers for over-zealous cameramen – our own included. The idea of a ring around the main pitch separating the crowd from the media people is not a bad idea.
 Relating to live coverage and social media, there were constant updates from the SuperSport team as well as our own K24 which broadcast the game live. This is a plus for the game for future screening and if we do bid for the IRB circuit.  W e had the social media buzzing with updates from both Twitter accounts, Facebook updates and uploads as well as the blogging world ( including yours truly…)

d) Invitational teams – while we cheer our boys for winning the game, in retrospect we should be rooting for the developmental side or team B to have achieved better. If our national team is to have a feeder programme, the second-string team needs to be up to the standards. Its not a lost cause for the team ( Shujaa as it were) due to the fact that the team had not even trained together comprehensively for them to play in this tournament. As earlier said, we also need to get more competitive sides from the IRB circuit to come play before our fans – that way we get better value the money, both for the corporate firms and enthusiasm to continue coming for more.

e) Entertainment – while we enjoyed the lady dancers and acrobats on the pitch, could we have a wider variety – maybe some comedians like we had some time back with the Redykulass guys? Still on the same, while it may cost a little more, we could love to see some international act like we did sometime in 1997-8 with former Fugee Lauryn Hill making her presence felt on this East African city.

Overall it was a well-run tournament and big kudos for the team for giving us a vantage point to absorb the happenings. Good tidings for next year’s and future Safari Sevens.