NAIROBI, Kenya, January 26 – The local rugby season kicked off last Saturday with the traditional Resolution Health Impala Floodlits which never fails to wet rugby aficionados’ appetites for the upcoming season.However, this year’s edition has been watered down by the absence of Kenya Harlequins, Nondiescripts and Strathmore University who pulled out citing the lingering effects of last season.
However their justification for missing out is hard to fathom as they weren’t the only clubs that were subjected to a marathon season.
Last season’s Kenya Cup champions Impala and runners up KCB showed no effects of burnout (as USIU and Mwamba can testify) neither did Nakuru who always have to travel a fair distance to get to Nairobi.
Mwamba who had contend with missing the likes of Collins Injera and Humphrey Kayange who are away on sevens duty had no qualms fielding a weakened team, a move that will pay dividends later on in the season.
The sides are within their right to pull out of whichever tournament they choose to do so but what effect does that decision on their respective players especially the fringe ones who have been looking forward to Floodlits?
For many young rugby players, playing under the Saturday night lights is one of the highlights of a season because of the big crowds, the media exposure and also national selectors.
It’s also a chance for them to test themselves against their counterparts and for club tacticians to pick out their teams strengths and weaknesses before the Kenya Cup and Eric Shirley Shield that both start on February 13.
Pulling out of Floodlits was an ill advised move especially as it automatically handed Impala’s and KCB’s reserve sides a chance to gauge themselves against superior opposition which is more than enough preparation for ESS.
It’s also unfair to rugby fans who fork out their hard earned money and to sit in the stifling breeze only to miss out on checking out a large chunk of the country’s rugby talent.
Quins and Nondies are well respected clubs primarily for what they have done for Kenyan rugby but ignoring a tournament like Floodlits is not only an affront to the sport but it also stunts the development of young players.
As for Strathmore, their emergence as a force over the last couple of seasons would count for nothing if they continue to ignore crucial competitions.