1 January 2013

Kenya: Mike Friday Makes Many Kenyan's Day

The appointment of Englishman Mike Friday as Kenya Sevens coach was the highlight of the 2012 rugby calendar.

Friday, a former player and coach of the England Sevens team replaced Mitch Ocholla following Kenya's disappointing performance in the 2011-2012 IRB Sevens series.

The arrival of Friday, conditioning coach Chris Brown from New Zealand sparked a change of fortunes for the Kenya team which narrowly lost to the Emerging Boks 21-17 in the Safaricom Sevens tournament final at Nyayo stadium.

Friday's tactical nous and installed discipline tremendously changed the team's prospects as thy roared to two semifinals in the opening IRB Sevens Circuit series in Gold Coast (Australia) and Dubai before losing in the bowl semifinals to Australia in the third leg in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Kenya are currently ranked sixth with 37 points. This is their best ever start to the series, a far cry from a year ago when the team looked rudderless and inept. Kenya only mastered one quarter-final place in the 2011-2012 campaign in Las Vegas and frictional fighting by the coaches cast a dark spell on Kenya's chances of going forward.

Friday has said success is a journey that calls for patience and he is seeking to rebuild the side.

Some of the standout players in the Sevens team this year have included burly Quins winger William "Lomu" Ambaka, Mwamba's Dennis Ombachi, skipper Andrew Amonde who has led from the front with a high workrate, and the return to form of star winger Collins Injera who was in sizzling form in the two opening legs in Gold Coast and Dubai.

Former skipper Humphrey Kayange who made a return to the team in place Of Sidney Ashioya added impetus to the team and Friday will be hoping the talismanic forward can play a part in the reminder of the series. Kayange was the top scorer in Port Elizabeth with six tries to his credit.

The outlook looks good for 2013 and with the Sevens World Cup in 2013 in Russia, Kenya are making progress and will be expected to ruffle some feathers at the event

Availability of players may hamper the side after three key players missed Port Elizabeth as Kenya crashed out. The country is still an amateur nation and ways and means have to be found to ensure that players are available for the nine legs of the series.

In June, the English counties toured East Africa beating Elgon Warriors 39-5.

The Kenya 15s team had a mixed campaign relinquishing the Elgon Cup to Uganda and failing to defend the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) cup trophy won in 2011 at home .

Uganda won the first leg match 19-5 in Kampala with Kenya winning the return leg 12-0 on soggy RFUEA ground.

Kenya then went on to play in the CAR Cup in Tunisia and lost to Uganda 22-19 but bounced back to beat the hosts 31-24 to stay in the First Division while Tunisia were relegated.

The 2012 edition was critical in determining the seeding for the World Cup qualifiers which start this year.

Head coach Michael "Tank" Otieno has asked the union to allocate them more matches to in order to remain competitive.

The 15s team also made strides with the appointment of Western Province coach Jeremy Paarwater as a consultant for the team.

Paarwater who has vast experience coaching Western province senior and junior teams will work alongside Otieno as they plan for this year's Rugby World Cup qualifiers.

The 2012 Kenya Cup was hit by controversy as top clubs objected to the inclusion of Kisumu and Western Bulls to the top flight. The union remained defiant insisting the clubs would play and there would be no relegation. A compromise was reached between the union and the clubs.

Once the season started Quins looked strong despite suffering a shock defeat to Homeboyz . They never looked back as they clinched a third successive title with KCB coming second. Nakuru finished third, their highest ever position in recent times and Strathmore Leos were fourth in a competitive league that saw several upsets.

The league however lacks a sponsor and players have nothing to show after six months of playing. Talks are underway to find a sponsor for the league and have some of the matches relayed on national television to capture a wider audience and generate interest.

In the current campaign Western Bulls have punched above their weight and caused a shock on match day two beating Impala 21-18 . The side coached by former Sevens player Newton Ongalo have been competitive and if the trend continues could find themselves battling for top six position which most of the big sides yet to travel.

Quins added the national Sevens circuit title to their trophy cabinet as they edged past Mwamba to win for the first time since 2006. Quins won the opening leg the Christie Sevens beating Mwamba 31-12

The Ngong Road side then captured the Dala Sevens with a hard fought 28-17 victory over Mwamba .

Kenya Commercial Bank then ended Quins winning streak by winning the Prinsloo Sevens in Nakuru, thrashing the hosts Nakuru 36-0

Quins won the plate with a 12-5 win over Blak Blad while Homeboyz lifted he bowl, beating Mean Machine 12-5. Nondies claimed the shield with a 10-0 victory over Eldoret.

Quins bounced back to win the Kabeberi Sevens by beating KCB 22-14.

The stage was then set for an epic finish at the final the Drift Wood Sevens in Mombasa. Quins had a six point lead heading to the finale. KCB clinched the title beating Quins 17-10 But Quins emerged winners of the overall circuit winning with 117 points, three more than the bankers.

It was a dream year for Quins as they contributed the bulk of the players to the Rhinos franchise which won the Bamburi Super series sixth title by beating Rwenzori 25-14.

The Series has grown in leaps and bounds since inception in 2003 and it sets the (platform for the technical bench to pick the best players for the Kenya teams.

2012 was also a sad year as Kenya lost women's team captain Aberdeen Shikoyi after a fatal spinal injury in Kampala during an Elgon Cup match. Kenya went on to retain the Cup match 15-3 after winning the second leg in Nairobi.

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