NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3- The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) has said the lack of quality competition at the Safland Sevens in Namibia led to their decision to withdraw from the tournament scheduled for November 10.
According to the initial plan, Shujaa were meant to travel to South Africa for the Assupol Sevens, have a 10-day training camp after that then travel to Namibia for the Safland Sevens. However, failure to travel to Cape Town due to a visa hitch has scuttled the whole plan.
Earlier sources claimed the Namibia trip was shut down due to lack of financial muscle on the Union’s side.
Speaking to Capital Sport, KRU Secretary Oduor Gangla said they saw no aim of travelling to Namibia as the invited teams would not have given them as much intensity as they would have wished.
“For the preseason tournament to make sense you have to look at the opposition coming for that tournament. We assessed and we decided that we shouldn’t go for the sake of it; it has to add value. If we find something that makes sense we will do it,” Gangla said.
Among the teams which had been scheduled to play in Namibia included the hosts, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Mauritius, Lesotho and South Africa.
With less than a month before the season starts with the Dubai Sevens on December 2, Kenya will not have time to gauge themselves against any opposition, but Gangla is optimistic that will not affect their readiness for the new season.
Apart from the World Rugby Sevens Circuit, Shujaa will be playing in the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia in April before travelling to San Francisco, United States for the Rugby Sevens World Cup in July.
The team left the city at the beginning of the week to Nanyuki for a 10-day high performance training camp and Gangla is confident this will be enough preparation for the team.
“We have had a very competitive Sevens Circuit, one of the best in more than 10 years and it helped in preparations and we had a huge selection of players picked from there on merit which is something good,” Gangla further said.
“It is a long season and I believe the players will pick along the way. Different from last season we have started pre-season training early and again we don’t have those contractual issues that derailed us last season. I believe we will have a very good season,” he added.
Shujaa have a defining season ahead of them especially after their poor performance last term.
Gangla said KRU has set targets for the coach and players and expects them to be met. Head coach Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu is on the last year of his contract and has a huge burden on his shoulders to deliver.
The Union wants the team to win at least a leg or two of the World Circuit, something they have achieved only once with the Singapore conquest in 2016. Overall, the target is a top three finish.
For the Commonwealth and World Cup, Gangla says they want the team to finish within the medal bracket.
“The contracts are performance based and we not only have targets for the coach, but players as well. For the circuit, we have always had a strategic plan of a top three finish and that remains in place. For the last two World Cups, we have always had semi-final performances and this time, we have to go one up,” Gangla explained.
Kenya has not had as splendid of performances in the Commonwealth Games as they have had in the World Cup.
During the last Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, United Kingdom, Shujaa lost out in the Main Cup quarters to New Zealand.
They dropped to the plate (now fifth place trophy) and lost to Wales.
However, the short term target is on Dubai with Kenya pooled alongside African powerhouse South Africa, Uganda and Canada.