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Rugby braced for quickfire 2014

AMONDE-FIJINAIROBI, Kenya, January 21- “This is a very busy year for rugby in Kenya and if we prepare well, the profile of the beautiful game will change forever in our country,” this are the words of Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman, Mwangi Muthee, as the body gears for 2014.

Apart from participating in the ongoing HSBC Sevens World Series, Kenya will debut in the Commonwealth Games in July and seek to qualify for 2016 Olympics games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Moving on to the bigger version of the game, 15s, the programme has already kicked-off with Kenya Cup.

Also in the line-up is the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifier to be held in June, Madagascar and Vodacom Cup scheduled for February in South Africa.

The most successful side, Kenya 7s team, have already began the season, and are in USA preparing for the fourth round of HSBC Sevens World Series before they head to New Zealand for the fifth leg.

Las Vegas runs this weekend while the Wellington takes place between February 7 and 9.

Head coach, Paul Treu, who sees his charges sitting seventh in the overall standings alongside Samoa on 32 points, is struggling to shadow Englishman Mike Friday’s sterling performance last season when Kenya finished fifth on 99 points.

The South African is yet to qualify for the Main Cup semi, having bowed out in the quarters at the last two rounds, Gold Coast and Nelson Mandela Bay 7s.

On both occasions, Treu, who led Blitz Bokke for nine years and to the HSBC Sevens World Series title in 2008/09, has failed to register victory over his former team.

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Even though he says his mantra is to take one match at a time and his long-term target is to see Kenya participate in the Olympics, he must realise, the International Rugby Board will use the World Series standings next season to choose the teams that will take part in major competitions.

According to the KRU boss, the squad must prepare adequately ahead of the various tournaments, and has always expressed confidence in the South African and his technical bench.

“There is a lot of effort that needs to be injected in the team from players, Union, technical bench and sponsors, if we work together I’m certain the boys will bring the Cup here in our country.

“To achieve this, we need the right technical bench since the whole modern game of rugby has become special. We want to embrace all the good aspects of the game because we want to be the best in the world.

“Looking forward for the Commonwealth Games, it’s a good forum since it’s off- the World Series Season and our players respond very well during off-season,” the KRU boss declared.

“What’s excites me about the new technical bench, is that they are exposing more kids, if you look at the youngsters breaking through the ranks it’s the highest number we have seen in the past five years.

“So it means every player must be on top of his game including the experienced ones, and I’m happy with how the technical bench is doing and how the players are reacting,” he continued.

Treu, has urged rugby enthusiasts in the country to give them time, and promised by the Commonwealth Games, he will have the best team in place.

“We want to test as many players as we can ahead of the Olympics qualifies. I think we will not realize what kind of quality players we have in the country unless we give them time to play because they need to make mistakes for them to become better.

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“They would rather make mistakes at a crucial game like a Main Cup Quarter final against New Zealand, South Africa or Fiji and that’s the only way they can learn.

“We want to learn our lessons now since we don’t want to notice them at Olympics qualifiers or at Commonwealth Games. I think we should pay our school fees now.

“So we will keep on exposing young players to the culture of sevens and once we have the depth of the squad, we can start selecting the best team,” Treu, who led South Africa to Bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India explained.

The last time Kenya participated in an international event, was in 2013 when they reached the semifinal of Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow, losing 12-5 to England.

For Kenya to compete at the Commonwealth Games and Olympics it will be a plus to the Union and the country as the good run of the shorter version of the game continues to grow.

Taking a look at the core of rugby which is the 15s, Muthee says they have emphasised on proper preparations to qualify for the global showpiece.

Kenya will take part in the annual Vodacom Cup in South Africa, from February to May, to gain experience as they will be taking the field against the best professional players in the world.

“We know very well for a team to play against the best, we must prepare for a build up and that’s what we are going to get from Vodacom.

“15 years ago, Kenya Harlequins went for a ten day tour in South Africa and when they came back when I was still coaching, they never lost a match in Kenya Cup for three seasons. They became the kings of Kenya rugby, simply because of the exposure.

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“Most of the players we are going to meet in Madagascar, from Zimbabwe and Namibia, are playing in professional leagues in South Africa and Europe, while our players are playing in Kenya Cup and Super Series. That’s not the right preparation.

“We must go where the professionals are and play like them. That’s why we are exposing our boys and there is no two ways about it, it will be an expensive venture but we have a plan of how we are going to do it,” Muthee concluded.

The 15s team coached by South African, Jerome Paarwater, will battle it out against 13 other African nations, during the Confederation of African Rugby, slotted for June in Madagascar, which will act as the qualifiers.

The winner will represent the continent in the Rugby World Cup in England.

This season, the Union expanded teams participating in the domestic league to 14, from the traditional 12.

This has increased the competitiveness amongst the clubs, with defending champions Nakuru RFC staying at the summit of 2013/14 log with 33 points, overshadowing powerhouse Kenya Harlequins who are fourth with 32.

The Rift Valley based side last year became the first team outside Nairobi County to clinch the coveted trophy.

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