Will Kenya survive the World Sevens Series relegation battle this season? And is the Kenya Rugby Union setting up head coach Paul Murunga for failure?
These are the questions on the lips of many rugby fans after Murunga named an in-experienced squad for Hamilton and Sydney legs.
Murunga has had a tough start on his reign as Shujaa head coach, missing a number of key players due to various reasons in the opening two legs, in Dubai and Cape Town where they performed dismally.
The former Singapore Sevens champions are currently 14th on the overall standings with a paltry four points, a point above the relegation zone.
And even as Shujaa prepares to leave for Hamilton, they will have to do without their eleven senior players, who have broken ranks with the Kenya Rugby Union board over contractual issues. The players on strike are Collins Injera, Andrew Amonde, Samuel Oliech, Billy Odhiambo, William Ambaka, Nelson Oyoo, Dennis Ombachi, Eden Agero, Leonard Mugaisi and Dan Sikuta.
Although the Union has publicly said they don’t have money after sponsors pulled out, the players seems not to be happy with what they are being offered. The senior and newly called up players were reportedly offered a monthly salary of Sh45,000 and Sh25,000 each.
This is a massive drop from last season, where the senior players were earning between Sh120,000 and Sh170,000 with newly capped players earning Sh60,000.
Former KRU Secretary General Jack Okoth has slammed the current regime, terming Shujaa’s problems as self-inflicted.
“KRU is really messing up the team. Is this the best team that we could have put forward really? Yes, they are good players, but it takes at least four years for one to crack through and become world class players. Basically, they could be setting him (Murunga) up either by design or default. Any world coach would not accept what Union is doing,” said former Secretary General Jack Okoth.
This is not the first time the national team has found itself into this situation. In the 2014/2015 season during Paul Treu’s tenure, the team flirted with relegation for the better part of the campaign after the senior players downed their tools over unpaid dues. The South African’s predecessor Benjamin Ayimba was also rocked by a similar dispute during his reign.
Innocent Simiyu also had a related row last season.
“The fundamental problem is not the players but the leadership at the union. There is a lot of dishonesty and politics. If the governance structures changes to allow the stakeholders on the board,” said Simiyu.