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Safari Sevens called off over political climate

Section of fans at the Kenya Simbas v Germany test match at the RFUEA ground. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 6- For the first time since 1996, Kenya’s inaugural international sevens tournament will not be held after the Kenya Rugby Union announced it has called off this year’s event due to the current political climate.

The tournament had been scheduled for November 2-5, just a week after the October 26 presidential election.

“After considering alternative dates and, after consultations with both internal and external stakeholders as a result of mounting challenges and uncertainty in the prevailing political climate, the Local Organizing Committee have advised the KRU Board it would be prudent to postpone the event,” the Union said in a statement on Friday morning.

Capital Sports has learnt that most of the invited countries were unwilling to travel to Nairobi for the annual showpiece over the current political uncertainty and to save face, avoiding the tournament being a flop, the organizers made the decision to call it off.

Among the invited teams which had already confirmed participation include the Fiji Barracudas, Germany, Zimbabwe, Western Province and neighbors Uganda.

Teams will now most likely shift their pre-season plans to the Silicon Sevens which is scheduled for the United States on the same weekend that the Safari Sevens was to happen.

Cyprian Kuto shows a clean pair of heels to a Rwanda opponent during the Safari Sevens tournament at the Kasarani Stadium on September 24, 2016. PHOTO/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Though Kenya Rugby Union says new dates will be communicated, chances of the three-day festival happening are close to minimal as the World Rugby Sevens Circuit is scheduled to start in December.

Also, according to World Rugby rules, a pre-season tournament can only be held latest three weeks to the start of the season.

It is not only a huge blow to fans who were looking forward to the tournament returning to Ngong Road for the first time in seven years but for the national sevens team as well.

The tournament coming on as a culmination of the National Sevens Series would have been an important platform for head coach Innocent Simiyu to put his charges to test ahead of his second season as the team boss.

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The team will nonetheless still have one pre-season tournament, the Assupol Sevens in South Africa which will now be used as the sole pre-season platform to test and gauge the players who have been in training for the past two and a half months now.

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