NAIROBI, September 10- The annual invitational Safari Sevens tournament will be held from October 2 to 4 at Nairobi’s Safaricom Stadium where 16 teams are lined to take part.
This year’s edition was in doubt when integrated mobile services provider, Safaricom, pulled the plug on Kenya Rugby Union citing corruption and fraud on April 2.
At the same time, the new head coach of the national sevens team and his technical bench could be unveiled later Thursday or Friday when the Union board sits to finalize the appointment.
On Thursday, Safaricom returned to the fold with a cheque of Sh30m but will not be the title sponsors of the event, hence the reverting of its traditional name.
“We are expecting a few new international teams including Brazil and Canada but nothing is confirmed yet,” KRU boss, Richard Omwela, said in a press briefing.
“The reason for Kasarani obviously is because on that day, we understand the Nairobi International Trade Fair maybe happening and secondly because over the years, we believe that we have outgrown the facilities at that ground in terms of logistics and the risks involved in having a key event at Ngong Road,” the union leader said in explaining why they opted for the biggest sporting facility in the country as opposed to the event’s spiritual home, Nairobi’s Rugby Union of East Africa Grounds.
“We having being delaying the announcement because the event requires funding since it is not a cheap event to have,” Omwela added on the premier sevens showpiece that has been pushed to October.
Safaricom’s Director of Consumer Business Safaricom; Sylvia Mulinge, stated they are happy with the progress that the union is making though not all issues have been dealt with in relation to accountability.
“We do have to say while we have not yet fully seen everything we needed to be implemented specifically around governance, accountability and transparency which still need to be taking care of,” she stressed
Mulinge added: “This decision follows reassurance from the KRU Board that it has initiated measures aimed at cleaning house including placing the forensic report by the audit firm PKF before KRU’s independent disciplinary committee but that does not mean we will be less vigilant in our demands for proper governance.”
Brazil are hosting next year’s Olympics where rugby sevens will debut in Rio with teams from regular visitors from Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, South Africa and Britain expected.
“Brazil have been very keen to travel and see the experience of hosting a big level 7’s tournament so they have been on the phone every week saying whether we are on or not,” the KRU boss underlined.
On the national sevens team technical bench constitution, the Union chairman charged, “Majority of our board are meeting today (Thursday) to finalize the new management of the team.Information on the disciplinary hearing is also being discussed and should be released tomorrow (Friday).”
Sevens head coach Felix Ochieng’s contract expired end July and is not expected to be renewed while his assistant, Vuyo Zangqa and strength and conditioning coach, Graham Bentz, both from South Africa, were facing disciplinary action by participating in the players’ strike.
The Union has received 14 applications for the role with four of them foreigners.
Long-serving team manager, Steve Sewe, also reapplied for his post after his contract also expired end July with KRU naming an interim squad of 31 that are due to start training on Saturday.
Expected Safari 7s teams
4) Samurai International
11) Welsh Warriors
12) Australian Icos
14) Western Province (SA)
16) Kenya Shujaa