NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 7 – Kenya head coach Paul Murunga will head to the third and fourth legs of the World Sevens Series in Hamilton, New Zealand and Sidney, Australia with youngsters as the senior players are yet to agree to contract terms for the new season.
Three weeks to the Hamilton leg, Murunga was yet to have all the senior players in camp and he says he will now have to concentrate on the arsenal he has at his disposal till the contract situation is solved.
“That’s now about the union and the players. If they get to agree then we will welcome them into the team but as per now as a coach I can only work with the guys coming for training. As times go, the junior players will get better,” Murunga told Capital Sport after the Monday morning training session.
He added; “Given a chance they are back, they will have to fight for a position against the youngsters.”
“I am disappointed of course but I have no control over it. If they were there and if we started with them it would have been better then we bring in the younger players as we continue. But now we have to manage with the younger players and give them confidence as we go on.”
Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Director of Rugby Thomas Odundo has indeed affirmed that even if the stalemate is solved, the players will not be available for Sidney and Hamilton.
“We will meet with the technical bench and have a discussion around it so possibly by Wednesday we will have a clear picture on the way forward. But I don’t expect them to be in for the next two legs because the others are already training and it will take time for them to catch up,” Odundo said.
He added; “I am hopeful we will have an agreement because as you understand, the situation at the Union financially is not that good.”
Murunga as well is hopeful that the stalemate will be solved especially with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifiers coming up this season.
“At the beginning of the season, we had a wish list of players with different positions and now going back to drawing board where we don’t have senior players, we have to manage how we build on the junior players,” Murunga noted.
Murunga has called in several new players into the team with Jacob Ojee (KCB) and William Reeve (Kenya Harlequins) being called in from the 15s.
Mike Agevi (Mwamba) and Bush Mwale were also in the Friday morning session as the team builds up for the next two legs.
The team has started the season on a slow footing, picking up four points from the opening two legs in Dubai (one) and Cape Town (three) but despite the slow start to his career as national team head coach, Murunga is not dejected.
“We have done some good work from Dubai to Cape Town but our reviews show that we have a lot to do especially on defense, team play and decision making. One positive we picked was our scoring but again, we need to score more,” noted the tactician.
Murunga was without most of the senior players in the opening two legs as they were out in France with the 15s team for the Repechage World Cup qualification tournament.
Ahead of the next two legs of the series, Murunga says they have worked on a lot of tactical aspects and the inclusion of Mike Shamiah as the new strength and conditioning coach has improved the side.
The team was without a conditioning coach after Geoffrey Kimani declined his appointment.
“We have worked on the defense and physical tackles. Shamiah has been looking at the strength and conditioning levels of the players and good thing is that we have picked up early enough to ensure the boys are ready for Sidney and Hamilton,” the coach further stated.
In Hamilton, Shujaa are pooled with South Africa, France and Scotland in a tight Pool C and Murunga hopes they can make their first quarter final appearance of the season off this tight pool.
“If we have a good start against South Africa, I believe we can beat the other two teams. For Sevens anything is possible and if we train well and the boys are well motivated, we will win games,” he noted.