NAIROBI, Kenya, September 24- Despite not claiming the crown, the performance of the Kenyan national teams at the Safaricom 7s that ended Sunday raised grounds for optimism ahead of the start of the IRB World Series next month.
In their first tournament under English coach, Mike Friday, the local sides, losing Main Cup finalists Morans and third place finishers Shujaa, gave home fans reasons to believe that Kenya can do better than the 12th finish it recorded in the 2011/2012 World Series.
Morans captain, Andrew Omonde stated he was content with the growth they have made since Friday took charge.
“The tournament was a success, I think we have measured our teams, it was a good build up and experience for the young guys who are coming in.
“We still have a lot to work on, but with the few weeks before the start of the new IRB season, we are sure we will have a strong team for the series,” said Omonde after the final won by South Africa’s Elite Players Development.
With approximately 40,000 fans turning up in the last two days of the competition, Sasha Mutai, the chairman of the organising committee, was certain they managed to hold a successful competition in readiness of the upcoming season that kicks off at the Gold Coast leg in Australia in October.
“If you ask many fans, they will come up with the same answer that this 7s was a resounding success, we had the biggest crowds at a rugby event in this region.
“It didn’t go well for us in the final, but our teams played well, you could see the structure in the game, conditioning and discipline of the players on the pitch,” added Mutai as he heaped praise on the technical team led by the former England coach.
Mutai noted that the large numbers are a testament of the assurance supporters have on local rugby given that there was the hugely popular Tusker Premier League derby between AFC Leopards and Gor-Mahia held on Saturday.
Former national team captain Humphrey Kayange who turned out for the Bristol Barracudas reckoned that Friday has a monumental task as he prepares to pick his final squad for the IRB series with the many emerging players who impressed in the fixtures.
“I think the boys have worked hard at camp, from the games they played, they looked sharp and up to the task, they still have a month to prepare but we should expect good results from them.
“I think Friday now has a good idea of his boys from the teams’ performance but he will have a daunting task especially with a few players from the Chairman Select also showing they are ready to be part of the national team,” expressed Kayange who is hopeful of making a return after completion of his studies at Bristol University.
He was happy with the organisation of the tournament which saw many core teams that participate in the IRB series participate as the country gears up to bid for a leg of the series on home soil in the near future.
Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) boss Mwangi Muthee paid gratitude to the local fans who made the event a success in addition to lauding the teams who showed a lot of sportsmanship in the three-day event.
“Those young boys on the pitch have shown we have a bright future for our rugby and they will soon put a smile on the face of all their fans.
“The coach has a free hand in the running of the team and we have full confidence in his plans for our game, the hard work of today means we will reap the fruits,” he said in his parting shot.
KRU Director of Rugby Philip Jalang’o said they achieved their objectives prior to the tournament which brought out the level of talent within the local players before the Gold Coast 7s.
“The final squad will be known in the next week which will be going for our overall team target of 100 points in the IRB circuit which we believe is possible.
“If we rally behind the players and in turn they trust in the program and the two coaches who we brought in for this course, they will deliver,” he asserted.
The Robin Cahill trophy was won by South Africa who defeated Morans 24-17 in a tightly contested Main Cup final, while Shujaa overcame Spain 21-7 a commendable third place.
Western Province took the Bowl title after beating Chairman’s Select 26 – 10 while Zambia were 21 – 5 winners over Universities Select to bag the Shield.