Namcos faults KRU board for 7s woes, calls for truce

By Rodgers Eshitemi: Sunday, February 24th 2019 at 10:04 GMT +3 | Rugby
Coach Innocent Simiyu during squad naming ceremony at RFUEA Grounds, Nairobi on Nov 24, 2017. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Innocent Namcos Simiyu captained Kenya Sevens and 15s teams then as a coach led Shujaa to their highest points (104) at the World Sevens Series last season.

In our interview, he discussed the national team’s performance so far as well as the senior players’ boycott.

Many people have been asking, where has ‘Namcos’ been since he left the Kenya Sevens job?

Hahaha! I’ve been upcountry (Western) doing some projects to help the community and a bit of farming. I hope to uplift the living standards of Western region residents.

How can you rate the national team’s performance last season?

We had a great performance in the first half of the season. Although we played some good rugby, the World Cup and how we started the 2018/2019 World Rugby Sevens Series season has been a disappointment to many. But I’m glad to have led the team to our highest World Series points (104) tally ever the last term.

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What do you think has gone wrong for the Shujaa team, who are currently ranked 13th on the overall World Sevens Series standings?

I think we need to look at things realistically. You cannot remove senior players from the system that fast. They still have to play because this is their optimum time in terms of playing. I don’t believe in a system whereby players are awarded positions or jerseys. So the young players must fight for them.

We also need to get good contracts for the players, some support in regards to the resources that help the players perform to their best.

With the current squad, do you hope for a turnaround after a stuttering start to the season?

Though I believe nothing is built in a day, we should give coaches time to build their philosophies and push in their plans. That means, with support they can get the results that we all want as Kenyans.

But if you look at the performance critically, in the opening four legs (Dubai, Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney), I have to commend the young players. They really played well. Hats off to them!

I believe if the coach (Paul Murunga) had given them more airtime at the beginning, we would have gotten better results.

What’s your take on the current stand-off between Kenya Rugby Union and the senior players over contracts?

The two parties should sit down and talk. I feel the more experienced players, who have performed well in the recent past need to come back and lead the team to where it is supposed to be in terms of standards at the top level. They would be emulated by the younger players. It would be good to see some of the common names coming back compete for places, gel and integrate with players like Olindi (Johnstone) and Taabu (Daniel).

What do you expect at next month’s Las Vegas and Vancouver legs?

Though a bit inexperienced, I’m expecting the players to give their best. But it all starts at the training. I believe in a philosophy that you only reap what you sow. The good lord will only bless you for the work of your hands. So, it’s not possible for us to start saying we want to win, yet what we are doing in terms of preparation and the support to the team is shoddy.

Contracts has been a thorny issue in Kenya Sevens team for a very long time, is it a self-inflicted problem?

I think it would be very naive to look at the current situation in isolation. We have to look at the context of five years and see what has been happening. We need to move away from this seasonal approach of addressing issues as they come. The fundamental thing is for the stakeholders to change things at the policy level. We have to change the governance structure of sports in Kenya. As we speak, the Sports Act relies on clubs. It keeps on referencing to clubs in terms of electing leadership. Unfortunately, most clubs in Kenya are briefcase clubs and those briefcase clubs produce leaders who go and elect their cronies into the leadership of them.

So, in a nut-shell what’s ailing the Kenyan rugby?

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 of the game to sit at board level then we will not have these issues. This is exactly what is ailing our game. We have always had good performance, after a while things go bad then we have to start again from the bottom, get to a good level again then something bad happens because of the Union’s politics. This has to stop. We need to change the Sports Act to help the performance of national team players.

Is money part of the national teams’ problems? How do we solve this issue once and for all?

I don’t believe money is the issue here. The key thing that has to be addressed is at the leadership level. We need all stakeholders (representatives from players, referees and government) to sit at that level where key decisions about the game are made.

However, it’s not rugby in isolation even other sports in Kenya and Africa as a whole have similar problems that we face. But to solve these issues, we must ensure all stakeholders are involved in the leadership of the sport.

What’s your future?

I don’t know where the future will take me. If it takes me back to Kenya Sevens, well and good; I will gladly give my best. If it takes me out of the country, I will also give my best. But at the moment, I’m still focused on some of the things that we started with the players helping them in terms of life goals and improving their careers. I’m still looking for opportunities for players to go and play abroad as well as further their studies. As we speak, we are in the process of pushing for a few players to go to Canada and ply their trade there.

How soon, are we going to see you back into the game?

I’m a coach for life (laughs!!). You can see from what I’m doing, I’m still active in the game. I don’t need to be a Kenya Sevens coach to help the boys. I still help many players in terms of reviews, how to improve their game and develop their skills in different aspects of the game. So, I’m still involved in the game and I will always be involved in the game. Rugby is my life.

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