Nairobi — So did rugby enthusiasts expect too much from the national sevens rugby at the just concluded Commonwealth Games?
Expectations were high when Benjamin Ayimba's charges left for the Delhi Games. Their hopes rode on the team's previous memorable performance especially in the IRB World Sevens Series and the 2009 Rugby World Cup.
What of the players and the technical bench heightening the dreams with a promise of nothing short of a medal performance.
But the mood at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport told a different story when the team returned to a low key reception devoid of the pomp and pageantry that marked their previous homecomings.
Well, their quest to give Kenya it's first team medal at the Club Games fell short when they trailed 0-22 at intervals before crushing to an astute Australia 5-27 in the quarterfinal of the medal bracket event.
Initially, coming from behind to offset a scoreline at half time has not been a surprise but this time around, the team's arsenal failed as they looked completely dead.
The Wallabies dominated in every aspect of play especially in the ruck and contact play to snuff Kenya's every move. What completely compounded Kenya's awful play was the sin-bining of Lavin Asego in the first half to create a leeway for the Aussie.
They dropped to the Plate event and so appalling was the team's display that they ended up losing to Scotland 17-22 in the semi-finals. The fact that Collins Injera scored a genuine try that was disallowed, the team's hunger, zeal and urge to perform was not there.
Earlier, there were hopes when the team put in some stand-out performance in the pool stages. They stunned IRB World Sevens Series champions Samoa 12-10 moments after easily dismissing Malaysia 40-0 and Papua New Guinea 17-12 respectively to make the medal event.
Once again, it will be soul searching for Ayimba and the rest of the technical bench on what really transpired in Delhi. The coach and team's captain Humphrey Kayange shares the sentiments that more should be done if Kenya is to rediscover its fading glow that was the 2008/2009 season.
While he acknowledges that his team still has the speed, Kayange says that they need to work on their contact, ruck and break play. Some of the top sevens coaches in the country Tito Oduk (Mwamba) and Charles Cardovillis (Kenya Harlequins) reckon that Kenya ought to have been realistic on their expectations in India.
"Expecting gold or silver was too much may be bronze," explains Cardovillis.
"It's amazing that all of a sudden we want to play like world champions against full super 14 outfits. We could have asked for a lot from a bunch of amateurs," says Oduk.
The main area of focus particularly should be on structures that will ensure that there is constant talent coming through the systems. A good example is of Australia and Samoa, who were nowhere during the 2008/2009 season. They came back re-branded to take the 2009/2010 season by storm with Samoa winning the IRB World Sevens Series as Australia finished second.
"Currently, few players are coming through to challenge the now established players in the team. We have talented players but they are yet to match the standards set by the like of Kayange," says Oduk, who recently handled Mwamba to clinch the National Sevens Circuit title.
"We need to start nurturing the talent early enough to avoid the disparities."Cardovillis reckons that Kenya doesn't have the depth like their rivals.
Dip in form
"An injury or a dip in form to any of the current players always leaves us in big trouble.
"We ought to take a critical look at how our rivals New Zealand, Australia and England prepare. We don't have that luxury of wide range of selection and that extra power against these full professional sides," explains Cardovillis.
There has been a strong concern over the calibre of some players in team and the general team's style of play. Many thought Innocent "Namcos" Simiyu and Victor Oduor Opong could have given the team the much-needed impetus.
But Oduk and Cardovillis tend to defer. "It's not about the change of players but structural changes where there will be a rich base of selection," says Cardovillis.
Oduk explains that contact game is fast becoming dominant in sevens and Kenya should be part of that change. "There is no short cut about it," notes Oduk.