NAIROBI, Kenya, October 16- The national rugby sevens team returned from Australia on Tuesday morning with each of the players and official involved in the opening leg of the IRB World Series receiving Sh168,000 ($2,000) in bonuses each.
The Kenya Airways sponsored side touched down at 5:45am before being treated to breakfast by their benefactors as they re-lived their successful outing down under where they finished fourth.
“We have our work cut out in the remaining eight legs of the series to sustain the performance and this is a good start,” Andrew Amonde who skippered the side in Australia stated upon touchdown.
Consequently, the team will resume training for the next pair of legs in Dubai and Port Elizabeth, South Africa on Monday at Nairobi’s Brooke House camp with head coach, Mike Friday, who did not return with his charges joining them next week for intensive training.
“Friday was left to take a break and what happened in Gold Coast was the culmination of eight weeks of hard work and restructuring. We want the players to keep their feet down; this is just a first step.
“Our overall target is to achieve 100 points at the end of the season and this is what we are sticking by. We have changed our training technique, our tactical approach to these tournaments and we realised we cannot rely on natural talent alone,” Philip Jalango, the Kenya Rugby Union Director of National Teams said.
He announced that the 12 who made the Gold Coast trip were not assured of being shoe-ins for Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
“The players have earned themselves a good rest for one week. We shall raise the intensity one week to Dubai where selection will be done where the 12 who will travel to Dubai will be dependent on those who work hard in camp number four.
“We would like to maintain consistency but the players must work hard for their places and the problems we had at Gold Coast. We had a difficult time on kick-offs and receiving the ball after attacks as well as in the breakdowns that lost us some points,” the director explained.
He admitted the Main Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand drained the team leading to their heavy 41-7 loss to South Africa in the third-place play-off that ensued.
“We are going to work on that mentally on how to sustain ourselves towards the end of the tournament. It is a learning curve for the boys and we are going to rectify the mistakes and we need to rally around the boys and be patient,” Jalang’o stressed.
According to the official, the players will be paid their bonuses cumulatively as opposed to the end of each leg in a bid to keep them focused on the task at hand.
“We want them to have something to celebrate about at the end of the season and that is why we decided on that,” he expounded.
Kenya came second behind Samoa in Pool C of the Australia opener after a 14-14 draw against Friday’s former employers England, a thin 14-12 defeat to the group winners before they stopped Spain 26-12 in their last match of the opening day.
Against all odds, they toppled hosts Australia 21-14 in the Main Cup quarters but came unstuck against the All Blacks who edged them 15-5 in the semis before their campaign ended in a 41-7 loss to South Africa in the play-off to finish fourth.
That was a very impressive campaign by our Kenyan team that saw us make the Main Cup Semis, trouncing strong teams from around the world including Australia,” Kenya Airways Chief Operating Officer Mbuvi Ngunze said during the breakfast reception.
Kenya have been pooled alongside Gold Coast champions Fiji, Scotland and once again, Spain for the Dubai leg that will run from November 30 to December 1.
Machine and Nondies in Impala floodlit finals
Meanwhile, Mean Machine and Nondies will meet in the final of the Airtel Impala Floodlit Rugby Tournament this weekend.
Nondies, winners in 1983 and 2002 reached the final after dispatching Nakuru RFC 28-10 with Brian Beckham, Derrick Wamalwa and Joseph Oduor grounding the ball.
Sinei added two conversions and three penalties while Nakuru touched down through Edwin Makori and John Ekong’o.
The second semi final saw defending champions Mean Machine overcome hosts Impala RFC 17-15.
Dennis Omusula opened the scoring for Machine with George Mutuku converting for a 7-0 score line.
The first half remained tightly contested before Impala captain Duncan Ekasi would ground the ball at the stroke of half time, cutting the deficit to 7-5.
Lameck Dunde’s converted try and Tom Langat’s penalty put Impala 15-7 up but Leon Mugaisi’s try, Mutuku’s conversion and penalty saw Machine carry the day, 17-15 the final result.
In the Universities Category, USIU rallied from 0-17 to defeat Strathmore 24-22 and book a berth in the final. They will face Mean Machine II who edged Kenya Polytechnic 16-15.
Lenana and Mang’u will meet in the schools final. Lenana were too strong for Dagoretti, registering a 46-0 semi final win while Mang’u edged Moi Forces Academy 8-5 to make the final.