Long-term strategy needed for rugby…

Thursday, May 25th, 2023 01:30 | By
Kenya 7s (Shujaa) celebrating after winning the 2021 Safari Sevens. PHOTO/KRU
Kenya Sevens celebrating after winning the 2021 Safari Sevens. PHOTO/KRU

Sports Cabinet Secretary Ababu Namwamba has warned against having a knee-jerk reaction after the national rugby team Shujaa were relegated from the prestigious HSBC Sevens Series where they had featured prominently for more than two decades.

Ababu, who was speaking at his Nairobi office yesterday, said that the union (KRU) must go back to the root of the problem and work on proper structures to prepare for future formidable sides that will dominate the sport globally for many years instead of looking for short-term options.

“We have to look into our structures – not only rugby but all the sports - to ensure prosperity in future. It is painful that we have been relegated to the HSBC Sevens Series. But that does not call for a knee-jerk reaction,” he said.

Meanwhile, legendary Kenyan rugby players led by former skipper Dennis ‘Iron man’ Mwanja and Humphrey ‘Tall’ Khayange have opened up after the shocking relegation of the rugby national sevens team, Shujaa from the HSBC Sevens series.

Mwanja who is currently on assignment with the ladies’ team Kenya Lionesses in Madagascar, lamented that those who were at the helm of the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) brought down the game of rugby that most players sacrificed a lot for its growth and successes.

“Those who were at the helm of the game took away the game from the people who built it with blood, sacrifice, and love, and it’s now gone back to dust!  We didn’t expect this to end, 19 years ago, when we took Kenya to core status,” Mwanja stated.

Khayange, who was recently elected as a director with KRU and a former olympian and Hall of Famer with the national team, mentioned that the devastating results cut deep and that it will take time for most rugby enthusiasts to digest the outcome.

Menengai Oilers head coach Gibson Weru - who also captained the national team during the glory days - lamented over poor management and poor player transition in the national team setup which led to the slow death of the once-celebrated Shujaa squad.

Former Shujaa talisman Denis Ombachi, who scored the winning try against Zimbabwe that took Kenya Sevens to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, said that Kenya needed the core status for pride and the life-changing opportunities that come with it.

He added: “We needed that core status for pride but for me, it’s the life-changing opportunities that come with it. You have no idea how many livelihoods feed off the system.”

Another former Kenya sevens player, Lucas Onyango, was devastated by the Shujaa’s results, saying that the team had no reason whatsoever to launch excuses for their dismal performance in the HSBC Sevens series.

“This is one of the saddest days in Kenya’s rugby history. Some of us were paid peanuts and expected to win trophies to a time when Kenya rugby players were paid well before the people who came before them and pushed for player rights. We sit here trying to give all sorts of excuses,” Onyango said.

He continued: “Having jokers leading the sports organisations and ministries got us here. We are obsessed with foreigners leading our time but not ready to invest in our local sons who showed they can lead.”

More on Sports