NAIROBI, Kenya, February 10- The national rugby sevens team sneaked back to the country Monday morning after underwhelming tours of Las Vegas and Wellington where Paul Treu’s side failed to muster a Main Cup quarters showing despite hopes of a turn-around and a strong squad.
Low key homecomings have become the norm since the second leg of the 2013/14 HSBC World Series in Dubai with little to celebrate in contrast to last season where lavish welcoming parties, complete with stretch limousines were rolled out to receive the squad.
After five legs of the series, Kenya are still holed in eighth with 47 points, having added 15 to their tally in Las Vegas (seven) and Wellington (eight) where the team lost the Bowl final in the former before winning the same competition in New Zealand last weekend.
With murmurs against Treu’s methods gathering pace, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) in a lengthy statement from chairman, Mwangi Muthee, reiterated support for the South African tactician although he hastened to caution him against the flailing results.
“All top teams, New Zealand, Fiji, South Africa and England respect Kenya. They never underestimate us and that’s why they always come out stronger and beat us.
“On our part, if we do not respect the so called ‘lower teams’ and show them the same as we do the top four, we run into trouble as has been evident too often in the just concluded tour,” Muthee added.
“This is a problem the technical bench and the players must solve. In the remaining half of the World Series, everyone must declare war against everybody across the board not just among the top brass,” the KRU boss declared in his welcome message to the team on Monday.
The chairman urged seasoned players to step up their game to satisfy rugby enthusiasts in the country who are yet to see desired results.
“I call upon our most experienced players; Collins Injera, Humphrey Kayange, captain Andrew Amonde, Biko Adema, Horace Otieno, Oscar Ouma and Patrice Agunda to arise and have a completely new scenario in the rest of the season.
“Treu and his technical bench have a lot of work to do, especially in seeing we perfect the basics of play. Sloppiness has no room in the tight matches of the World Series. It is the thin line between winning and losing games,” the Union chief delivered in a damning indictment of the team’s performances.
“So far we have not lived to the expectations of our sponsors who have invested so much in us so that we can be the best. We must commit ourselves and guarantee them that we shall pull up our socks and clean up our act for the remaining rounds,” he continued.
Treu’s critics point to the extended period it is taking his players to adapt his style of play in the last four HSBC Series rounds in Dubai, Port Elizabeth, Las Vegas and Wellington 7s since the former Blitzbokke tactician took charge in last November.
The attacking style he favours seems to be a difficult preposition for his charges as witnessed in Las Vegas and Wellington where the handling and passing of the ball was poor.
This saw them suffer 24-12 to Samoa in the opening match of pool D, before losing 24-0 to Australia, to be relegated to the Bowl competition despite thrashing Tonga 40-7.
Kenyan all-time try scorer Injera, admitted they are still in the process of catching up with the new coach’s formation.
“It is different this year, we just need to keep adapting and ticking the boxes. We will come a long way if we achieve that and that’s why I’m in the team, I still have the strength and speed to do it.”
Inconsistency of the squad might have played a major role after his squad was affected by employment and school commitments in Dubai and South Africa legs earlier on.
Veteran Kayange, winger Dennis Ombachi and Nakuru RFC’s Ouma, missed the two legs while Amonde was ruled out at the fourth and fifth rounds with a shoulder injury.
The chasm compared from last season where they picked 19 points from New Zealand to place second on 56 points is yawning.
With time running out in this campaign Treu has the task of ensuring Kenya seal a top four place in the 2014/15 Series to ensure they will feature in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The team heads to a break before converging for the next rounds in Japan and Hong Kong next month with the team likely to welcome injured skipper Amonde to the side.
Kenya will once again meet Port Elizabeth and Las Vegas champions South Africa, Argentina and hosts Japan in a tricky Group B. Treu has not beaten his former side in three meetings in the circuit thus far.
HSBC SERIES STANDINGS
1. New Zealand 22 17 19 19 22 99
2. South Africa 15 19 22 22 19 97
3. Fiji 13 22 13 8 17 73
4. England 17 15 8 13 15 68
5. Australia 19 8 7 12 13 59
6. Samoa 10 5 17 15 10 57
7. Argentina 5 13 15 10 10 53
8. Kenya 12 10 10 7 8 47
9. Canada 7 5 2 17 12 43
10. France 8 3 12 10 5 38