NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – Innocent Simiyu has made a return to the national rugby sevens team after being named the Shujaa head coach ahead of the upcoming season, replacing New Zealander Paul Feeney who left early this year.
Kenya Rugby Union boss Oduor Gangla says Simiyu will take over the job on a two-year contract, having topped the final shortlist of four that also had former coach Paul Murunga, KCB Sevens coach Dennis Mwanja and Briton Nick Wakley.
Simiyu’s appointment brings to an end a week of speculation, push and pull over who will take over the Shujaa hot seat.
“I am happy to return to the team and obviously I know there is a lot of work to be done. Hopefully we can work together to see how we can take the team to the next level,” Simiyu said after his appointment.
Simiyu was fired from the role in 2018, becoming a casualty of the infamous ‘Paris Fiasco’ where players blocked the Brand Kenya sponsor image at the front of the jersey protesting non-payment of bonuses.
“He did a very good job in the two years that he was here and the most important thing for us was to ensure that the process was followed through to the end. He (SImiyu) was top of the panels’ recommendation and it was unanimously agreed that he was the best candidate for the job,” Gangla said as he announced the coach’s appointment in an online press conference on Tuesday.
Simiyu was one among 14 individuals who had expressed interest in the job. He comes back to the team after two yeas, having helped them to breach the 100 point mark in his first season in charge in 2017.
“We are confident that he will do the jersey and the country proud,” Gangla further noted.
The interviewing panel was composed of former coach Feeney, KRU’s Director of Rugby Thomas Odundo and Peter Harding who was recommended by World Rugby.
According to Union boss Gangla, Namcos will have a free hand to select his backroom staff, provided they meet basic coaching criteria. Simiyu said he had already settled on who will work with him but declined to name them.
KCB RFC Sevens Coach Dennis Mwanja had been tipped to take over the job after a majority of the board members gave him the nod, but a last minute change of heart saw Namcos picked.