Rugby Rugby

Sevens players down their tools again

Shujaa's Billy Odhiambo in action at last season's Glasgow Sevens. PHOTO/File
Shujaa’s Billy Odhiambo in action at last season’s Glasgow Sevens. PHOTO/File

NAIROBI, July 10 – National Sevens players have thrown their 2016 Africa Olympics qualification preparation into a spin after declaring on Friday they will not report to training until their three-month salary and bonus arrears are settled.

According to long serving Team Manager, Steve Sewe, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has also failed to provide basic training facilities required to meet the high performance demands for a side that is aiming to qualify for a maiden Olympics including food supplements and a gymnasium.

Sewe was flanked by assistant coach, Vuyo Zangqa, strength and conditioning coach, Graham Bentz, skipper Andrew Amonde, Kenya’s all time try top scorer Collins Injera, his elder brother Humphrey Kayange and seasoned Patrice Agunda.

With the future of head coach, Felix Ochieng hanging in the balance, the team manager expressed his reservations with lack of continuity at the helm with four men occupying the post since Benjamin Ayimba , who led the side from 2006 to 11, left.

Sewe accused the national body for failing to secure player’s contracts leaving them with the choice of seeking alternative means of survival instead of rugby in what is a second revolt against administration by the team in recent times.

“In 2011 the KRU undertook a commitment to transform the national 7s training program into a high performance system. Key to this was the establishment of a player centred coach led system which placed welfare as the top priority.

“However, a lot of challenges have been encountered in the recent past that put the programme at risk among them, timely and consistent remuneration, equipment has not been bought in the last three years and lack of supplements,” Sewe complained.

The team that had a poor outing in the 2014-15 Rugby Sevens World Series after finishing 13th on 46 points will be seeking to qualify for next year’s Summer Games when the Africa qualifiers gets underway in November.

However, Sewe says it will be impossible to achieve the dream after missing out on automatic entry by failing to nail a top-four finish at the 2014/15 World Sevens Series where Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand and England sailed through.

“As we seek to qualify for Olympics and fight for a podium finish, a lot of the non-negotiable terms are not in place. The program is too volatile for players to concentrate on core business which has led to instability. We must build confidence as this is a culture change.

“In 2012, the development team used to participate in satellite tournaments and up to date our medical system is porous and players cannot continue putting their bodies on the line,” the team manager asserted.

Amonde, who was among few regular players who stood with the Union when the rest downed their tools in December, called on the national body to come to the team’s rescue as pre-season plans lay asunder.

“We are training in conditions that are not good enough for us to perform well. We feel it’s time everybody knows the situation we are going through. We appeal to KRU to give us support to enable us achieve our goals.

-Amonde laments-

“The team has potential to do well but the kind of treatment we are getting makes us feel we are being pushed to the wall. We need help before it’s too late because we have a very long season ahead of us,” Amonde underpinned.

The captain said some of these challenges contributed to their poor performance in the previous season where they only reached one Main Cup quarter-final during the Wellington Sevens in New Zealand.

“We need to prepare well for Olympics qualifiers and to represent the country well in the new World Series season. Last season we didn’t go to camp after the Union cancelled it.

“Most of the players were on strike and when they joined us, they were not physically fit and by the time they catch up the season was over.

“The change of coaches has really affected us because we have to change our formation now and then instead of being consistent. As we are speaking, we are not sure who our head coach is,” Amonde, who turns out for Kenya Cup side, KCB RFC lamented.

South African, Zangqa who is reportedly slotted to succeed Ochieng, added, “We lack support and if simple basics like a training pitch, supplements, and gym are lacking, then how do you expect us to compete with top teams in the world?.”

The team has been training at Nairobi’s RFUEA Grounds but the Team Manager said the pitch was not in a good condition and they could not access gym facilities at Brook House School due to lack of money.

Efforts to reach, KRU boss, Richard Omwela by the time of going to press were futile.