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Why Kenya has long way to go in restoring lost glory in rugby

Kenya Sevens Jeff Oluoch (right) in action against Canada during Malaga Sevens. [Courtesy: World Rugby]

National sevens and 15s rugby teams have a long way to go before getting back into their prime after once again performing below par during the continental games played over the weekend.

Kenya Sevens finished third during the 2022 Africa Men’s Sevens championship that ended on Sunday in Uganda while Kenya Simbas struggles continued in South Africa after losing their second consecutive Currie Cup match.

Shujaa lost easy matches against Madagascar (12-7) and Uganda (22-12), fixtures they previously dominated while Simbas went down to Zimbabwe (22-21), a familiar foe they have been destroying year in year out.

Both teams have struggled to win games since the year began with a worrying dip in form that will worry Kenyan fans especially heading into the upcoming Commonwealth Games in July, Rugby World Cup Sevens in September and 2023 15s World Cup qualifiers.

Why is Kenya struggling to win matches? Is it the long Covid-19 interruptions from 2020 through to 2021 or is it the congested fixtures causing fatigue to players?

According to former international and Menengai Oilers head coach Gibson Weru, either issues could have played a role but he agrees there is concern at Shujaa struggles.

“For Kenya Simbas, we can say they have not been together for long due to Kenya Cup commitments but I believe they will jell soon after working out together as team.

“I can’t say much for Shujaa who have been in camp for years. It is difficult to access them because I don’t know the criteria they use for selection of players and training methods but I agree they should pull up their socks if recent results are anything to go by,” Weru said.

Shujaa have blown hot and cold since the beginning of the year where they have failed to go past the group stage in their last World Sevens Series three legs.

Innocent Simiyu’s charges collected one point in Malaga, eight points in Seville, five in Singapore and one point in the last leg in Vancouver, Canada. Mixed results in Uganda at the weekend just compounded Kenya Seven’s struggles which prompted fans in social media to call out Kenya Rugby Union demanding improvement.

“Truth here is Kenya Sevens and KRU should invest in the game and have enough players for easy rotation.  I personally appreciate the boys’ input in Kampala but these players are fatigued. Three consecutive weeks of playing without recovery,” said Joel Juma.

“No excuses for not bagging Africa Sevens trophy in Kampala. Shujaa have been inconsistent. Suddenly, we eject players over 30 years while other teams phase them out! Nothing beats experience,” said Eric Odanga.

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