Kenya have emerged as one of the top-tier rugby sevens teams over the past few years but they are going through hard times because of a boycott by top players over pay.
It has come to a stage where their head coach is looking at a worst-case scenario – relegation from the HSBC World Sevens Series.
Paul Murunga said the absence of experienced players are stifling the team’s progress in the series, with the Kenyans failing to win a single match at the Sydney Sevens in early February. Their single point from the tournament puts them two spots away from relegation as one of the core teams in the series.
“I don’t need to cover anything. This team needs experienced players in international matches like the World Series. We need to get this team playing at the top level,” Murunga was quoted as saying in a Xinhua article. “We miss their services. It is no secret, but I’m confident we will not be relegated. Kenya has a wide group of young players to select from. The talent is there, but it takes time to develop it.”
— #Shujaa (@KenyaSevens) February 1, 2019
Players such as Collins Injera, Andrew Amonde, Sammy Oliech, Nelson Oyoo, Jeff Oluoch, Leonard Mugaisi, Dan Sikuta, Dennis Ombachi, Brian Tanga, Eden Agero, Willy Ambaka, Oscar Ouma, Augustine Lugonzo and Billy Odhiambo have missed Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney because they are refusing to sign new contracts.
Murunga has asked the Kenya Rugby Union to convince senior players to join the squad to save them from losing their core team status.
“We need to get more experienced players if we target better results. We need them in the team now,” he added.
Kenya can boast a wealth of sevens rugby talent and some of coaches who have taken charge of the team including Mike Friday, who is now doing magical things with the United States Eagers, South Africa’s Paul Treu and Innocent Simuyu. However, a lack of government support has meant most of the big names have moved on.
Team skipper Jacob Ojee said they were improving but will struggle to regain their status as a top-six team with a young squad.
“We have not had good results but I believe we are getting better and as we move forward we will get good results and avoid relegation,” Ojee said.
Kenya face France, Argentina hosts United States in pool B of the Las Vegas Sevens in March.
Main photo: Twitter