Keen to change tide

Friday, November 6th, 2020 00:00 |
Simbas front rower Oscar Sorano bumps onto a Zambian tackler during the 2019 Victoria Cup return match at RFUEA grounds. Kenya won 31-16 on August 24, 2019. Photo/PD/ALEX NJUE

Nairobi, Thursday

There is no doubt that Kenya has one of the most recognised rugby 7s playing teams in the world.

Its flamboyant national team in the shorter version of the game famously known as Shujaa (Hero) is one of the most visible and notable brands in the elite HSBC World Sevens Series circuit. 

The East African country renowned for its distance running prowess has made it to the Rugby World Cup Sevens’ semi-finals twice,  in the Dubai 2009 and Moscow 2013 editions. 

Besides qualifying for the Rio 2016 and the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, rugby 7s was readmitted back to the Summer Games roster.

However, that success has not been replicated in the longer version of the game, 15s, with Kenya still seeking the elusive ticket to the quadrennial Rugby World Cup (RWC). 

Continental rivals, South Africa, won the last edition of the showpiece in Japan last year, a victory that resonated well with the rugby-loving public in Kenya who would cherish nothing more than seeing their beloved Simbas (Lions) scale the same stage. 

Speaking to Chinese cable television news broadcaster, CGTN Africa’s weekly Sports Scene show, Paul Odera, Kenya 15s head coach and retired international, outlined the vision they have to qualify for their maiden RWC in France. 

With South Africa way out of sight in terms of 15s rugby in the continent, the only hope Kenya and all other nations have to make the RWC is clinching a ticket by winning the African title.

Namibia has denied Kenya that elusive slot in the running for the 2015 and 2019 editions, and Odera knows overcoming the South Africans will bring their RWC dream to reality in the forthcoming continental championships. 

“It’s about the culture. We are not going to compete financially; we won’t even be as big as Namibians.

The first step has been setting up a very firm culture and a value system within the Simbas. 

“It’s got to be something that is unshakable and strong that the boys believe it, and we all believe it as management,” Odera noted.

The former Under-20 head coach was appointed to his position in December last year and believes local talent alone will not carry Kenya through to the RWC.

 “We need to try and use data to select the best Kenyan team of rugby players across the world. 

Whether we have players in Australia, South Africa, England, and even here in Kenya, it’s now to set up a database and a system of analysis to determine which players can run on the field to represent Kenya,” he added. 

Odera, appointed to the position after winning the 2019 Barthes Cup where the Under-20 side beat Namibia in the final, believes blending players in the senior side will bring the country closer to the RWC based on his experience in his squad.    -Xinhua

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