Rugby Rugby

Simiyu blames poor pre-season for disappointing campaign

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Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu (left) with Physiotherapist Lameck Bogonko when the team arrived from Singapore on Tuesday, April 18, 2017.PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23 – Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu has thrown down the gauntlet to his players to have strong pre-seasons, saying poor preparation last summer was a large reason behind the team’s slide in the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series that saw Shujaa finish two places above relegation.

Simiyu in his first season as the coach of the Kenya Sevens failed to sparkle after only managing to reach two Main Cup quarters in Cape Town and Wellington legs; a massive underperformance compared to last season where the team qualified for seven Cup quarters and a leg (Singapore) for the first time in history under the tutelage of Benjamin Ayimba.

Shujaa finished the season in a disappointing 12th position on 63 points after collecting five points from the last leg in London 7s, where they were bundled out in the Challenge Trophy semi-final 45-5 by power house Fiji.

Kenya only managed to win two matches out of five, beating Wales 17-28 in the group stages and Spain 33-7 in the Challenge Trophy quarters while they lost 12-10 to overall champions South Africa before succumbing 47-0 to Mike Friday’s USA in the preliminary round.

Samuel Oliech looks on after his side’s loss to Kenya on day two of the HSBC Singapore Sevens, round eight of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Photo: Martin Seras Lima

However, Simiyu, a former Kenya international said they would have attained their target of collecting 10 points from each leg, only if they were given ample preparations and it’s from this reason that he called on Kenya Rugby Union to make sure the team starts pre-season early.

“We fired on and off this season because we had mental issues. Our preparations were messed up leading to the tournament and the result did show in terms of performance. There are a lot of things we need to do from the management and players point of view and also in terms of pre-season because we didn’t have a pre-season which of cause messed us in having a foundation that we can build on,” Simiyu lamented when the team returned home from England on Monday night.

“We got six out of 10 as far as our target was concerned, so I am happy with what the players have put in, looking at what we had in terms of resources and support. I think they have done the best and we will build on that next season.”

The team has a lot in tray waiting for them since apart from the World Series, 2018 will be a year they will be competing in the World Cup Sevens as well as the Commonwealth Games to be hosted in Gold Coast Australia.

Billy Odhiambo of Kenya takes on the Russia defence at the HSBC Sydney Sevens, 05 February, 2017, round four of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. Photo credit: Michael Lee @ KLC fotos for World Rugby

Simiyu, however, said their focus in the pre-season will be to improve the conditioning of the players with sights focused in the World Cup.

“This year was more of foundation where we were to put in the structures so that we can have a platform to be able to challenge for the World Cup and Commonwealth Games. Key thing for us leading to the World Cup year is the pre-season, where we will up skill and condition our players, so once we have those two will have a good platform to play and be more consistence,” the coach said.

He outlined that the 2016/17 season was a learning curve, hailing his charges for giving their best despite the challenges they encountered.

“Of cause the season was challenging, there has been a lot of learning in terms of the game but it has been very exciting for us looking at some of the strategies that we put especially against the big teams. We failed to close a couple of critical games in the pool stages and it came to haunt us. We came close to beat England, South Africa and France so for us the biggest thing next season is to ensure that we play well from minute 1 to 14.”

The team will break for off season and are expected to re-group early to make plans for next season.

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