- Amonde, who likes relaxing at home with his daughter Nicole, 7, and son Tyler, 2, when not in rugby business, advises upcoming players to focus and dedicate fully to what they want to achieve in life.
- He loves cooking with fish and ugali his favourites. “I am good at preparing both especially on Wednesdays,” says Amonde, who celebrates his birthday on Christmas Day.
What a time for one of Kenya’s most accomplished rugby player to hang his boots. Next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games will perhaps be the stage to call it quits after his chequered rugby career that has seen him become the envy of many as he juggled between the sevens and 15s versions of the game and family life with ease.
Tossed into the world of rugby right after high school in 2004, Andrew Amonde has established himself as an astute all-round player by earning 50 international caps in 15s and 70 international caps in sevens.
The father of two, who used to play basketball and handball in high school, taking Kisumu Boys to the nationals on several occasions, seems to have discovered what he wants to do after his active days as a player are over in rugby.
Winning the Africa Gold Cup twice in 2011 and 2013 with Kenya Simbas and captaining the Kenya Sevens team to their historic Singapore Sevens victory in 2016, are things that Amonde holds dear.
That is why the 35-year-old Amonde, who now has one more season left in his playing career, wants take a slightly different route but within rugby circles to give back to the society.
“I won’t be in this game for long and with next year’s Tokyo Olympics being my last competitive outing, I want to fully major into strength and conditioning coaching purely in rugby,” says Amonde, who is determined to have Kenya qualify for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, having failed through the 2018/2019 World Rugby Sevens Series.
“We have lacked variety in rugby, the game lacks proper strength and conditioning coaches,” explains Amonde, who is now through with World Rugby Level I coaching and heading to Level II.
“The needs for rugby are quite different from football, athletics and any other sport hence specialisation is vital.”
Amonde says while both versions of play have made him a complete and all-round player, his biggest asset and secret for longevity in rugby has been his strength and conditioning sessions.
“I have always taken them seriously and religiously both off season and in season,” explains Amonde, adding that both versions of the game have done a lot in building his culture and motivation which has seen him captain the Sevens team.
“I observe the protocol of rest where I give my body time to rest and recover from knocks.”
Apart from physical challenges every rugby player encounters, Amonde says his rugby playing career been a roller coaster of thrills.
Amonde explains that it has never been easy as it has taken him hard work from the team’s management and playing unit at Kisumu where his rugby journey started to his current side Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Rugby Club and on to the Kenya Sevens and Simbas sides.
“I cannot forget my friends and family members who kept on encouraging and pushing me to achieve more especially when it reached a time when I was faced with career-ending injuries,” says Amonde.
Winning the Rugby Africa Gold Cup twice and especially beating Tunis 16-7 in Nairobi to lift the continental title for the first time in 2011 was perhaps the biggest highlight in Amonde 15s career.
However, its coming close to qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup during the 2014 Africa qualifier that made him believe that Kenya was capable of making it if everything was in order.
After stunning champions Namibia 29-22 and hosts Madagascar 34-0, Kenya only needed a point from their last encounter with Zimbabwe to qualify for the maiden RWC.
However, the Simbas would surprisingly lose 28-10 to finish third despite tying on 10 points each with Namibia and Zimbabwe. Namibia qualified directly while Zimbabwe had a second opportunity to try and qualify from Repechage tournament.
“We just needed to point from the Zimbabwe match to secure a place in the World Cup after having beaten favourites Namibia,” notes Amonde. “In all the games that I had played, that was the most important match for me.”
Before the game, Amonde explains that they knew they had it after they cleared the toughest hurdle that was Namibia. More so, under Jerome Paarwater, they had built a strong team, having also had good build up starting with Vodacom Cup.
“But after beating Namibia, we slumped into laxity as Zimbabwe had other plans to stop as at the last hurdle. It was a painful scenario and many players broke down,” says Amonde who hopes that Kenya will have a team that eventually take the country to the rugby 15s’ Promised Land.
Amonde has played for Kenya Simbas since his first call up by head coach Michael “Tank” Otieno for the 2006 Elgon Cup. The ever-green Amonde led Kenya Simbas in their successful defence of the Elgon Cup after overturning a 16-13 defeat in Nairobi to win 15-5 in Kampala.
The two legs of the Elgon Cup also counted towards the Victoria Cup for both Kenyan and Uganda. The Victoria Cup, that also involves Zambia and Zimbabwe, has been revived and is being played for the first time since 2011 when Zimbabwe won.
Amonde touched down a brace of tries as Kenya won their third match against Zambia 43-23 in Kitwe, Zambia on July 27 and they were to meet Zimbabwe the next day.
Amonde has won six Kenya Cup rugby league titles with Kenya Commercial Bank since joining the side at the end of 2005 from Kisumu, having been fished out from the lakeside club by Otieno with influence from KCB team manager Wangila Simiyu and players like Derrick Wamalwa and Anthony Ogot.
“I have had some of the best and worst moments with KCB. I remember in 2008 when I broke my jaw to lose all my front teeth and got admitted for four days. I also broke my leg. I was really scared and wondered if I wanted to continue playing. I took three months to recover,” says Amonde.
It’s former Kisumu Rugby Club players Felix “Flex” Oketch, Paul Okongo, Andrew Okwaro, Fred Maobe and Newman Opiyo, who drew Amonde to rugby back in 2004.
“We resided next to Kisumu Polytechnic where I used to frequent to watch Kisumu RFC train after I cleared school,” said Amonde, who joined Kisumu as winger/centre in 2004.
“These players were drawn to my heavily-built sporting physique and Flex was particularly impressed. They all encouraged me to try out and visited me at home.”
However, it’s at KCB where Amonde’s journey into serious rugby got the right tone. “I had challenges since I had not played rugby before. I was not as good as the guys who played rugby and was still learning the basics when I joined from Kisumu,” explains Amonde.