NAIROBI, October 21 – The national sevens team will return to Nandi Hills for a high altitude training camp a week before they depart for the November 14 and 15 2016 Africa Olympics qualifiers in Johannesburg, South Africa.
However, the squad to be contracted by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) for the 2015-16 Rugby Sevens World Series season will be named after the qualifiers since title sponsor, Kenya Airways are yet to confirm their commitment to the team.
“We don’t know how many players will be contracted since we are yet to get the go ahead from the Union. If title sponsors renew their partnership then we will decide on the number,” head coach, Benjamin Ayimba told Capital Sport.
Former skipper and veteran, Humphrey Kayange said they will only negotiate on the contract when they get hold of it but for now they are concentrating on qualifying for the Summer Games in Rio-de-Janeiro, Brazil.
“We can only discus about contract once it’s on the table. Everyone is really edgy about that but no has seen them. Everyone is talking about things that are in the contract or are not but for now the most important thing is the qualifiers.
“The contracts will take effect when the series starts in December. We have the qualifier which requires no contracts so we have to go out there and perform,” Kayange, the elder brother of record try scorer, Collins Injera, asserted.
Contracts has been a major issue since last season after former chairman, Mwangi Muthee replaced existing central contracts with performance based deals that led to protests from senior players who downed their tools on several occasions.
It’s yet to be seen if KRU chairman, Richard Omwela who was re-elected in March will make changes after all players’ contract lapsed in July.
Kayange, who alongside Sri Lanka based winger, Oscar Ouma and Impala RFC full back, Sammy Oliech are latest inclusions in the team, is fighting against time to get back to fitness after having a shallow outing last season.
“Missing out on gaining automatic qualifiers means we have to go and grind out in the African qualifiers and with less than a month to go, all preparations are geared to make sure the boys advance to Olympics.
“I’m getting to that point where I’m taking a year at a time but five years from now. I’m looking to give it back to the young players. Coaching is one area that I will consider because I want to pass down the knowledge,” the 33-year-old Mwamba RFC centre, declared.
The return of Ouma, better known by his nickname “Big Wheels” to the national squad for the first time since last year when he featured at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, is a major boost to the team as he is capable of punishing defences with his fleet feet and deceptiveness in offence.
For Oliech, it will be a breakthrough if he makes it to the team after being overlooked by past coaches despite impressive performances at his club.
The trio were initially overlooked for the Safari Sevens and opted to feature for invitational side, Samurai who lifted the Africa premier tournament under the tutelage of former Kenya 7s head coach, Mike Friday.
“They are top quality players and as much as they did not play for any of the Kenyan teams, they proved their worth at the Safari Sevens and that’s why they are in the team. The players are bonding well and they are showing what it takes to win matches.
“I assure Kenyan rugby fans that we will qualify for Olympics. We just need to work on a few mistakes we learnt from Safari Sevens and we will be good to go,” Ayimba, explained.
The team had a two week bonding session at Nandi Hills after Safari Sevens before relocating to Nairobi.