In Summary
  • Safari Sevens tournament may have made a return to its traditional venue of RFUEA grounds in November after seven-years period during which it was held at Nyayo National Stadium and Kasarani, but Kenya’s premier sevens rugby tournament struggled to attract teams and fans.
  • The tournament was marked by low attendance by fans and visiting teams, forcing organisers to reduce it to a 12-team, draw.

The 2017/2018 rugby season proved a roller-coaster for local fans, but the failure by the national team 15s team, Kenya Simbas, to qualify for the 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup left fans heartbroken.

Kenya Sevens blew hot and cold in their campaign at the San Francisco Rugby World Cup, and the World Sevens Series whose last leg in Paris saw Kenyan players stage a protest, ruining a rather good ending, the team having reached two Cup finals.

The incident might have cost Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent 'Namcos’ Simiyu his job. During his two-year tenure, Simiyu had battled player revolt, strikes and go-slows over pay.

Canada Sevens

Willy Ambaka (L) hugs Oscar Ouma and Billy Odhiambo of Kenya after scoring a try against Fiji during the gold medal game at Canada Sevens, the Sixth round of the HSBC Sevens World Series at the BC Place stadium Centre on March 11, 2018 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. PHOTO | BEN NELMS| GETTY IMAGES |AFP

However, women’s national sevens team, Kenya Lionesses, and Kenya Under-20 men’s team Chipu gave the country something to smile about.

The Lionesses won their maiden Africa Sevens title in Gaborone, ending South Africa dominance with Chipu finishing second in Southern Group, having lost to Namibia only after beating Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) retained the Kenya Cup rugby league title unbeaten, becoming the first team to achieve the feat since 2011/2012 when Kenya Harlequin won the diadem.

Homeboyz claimed a double, winning the Enterprise Cup before recapturing the National Sevens Series for the team’s second Cup success.

University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine mastered the slippery field to beat fancied Menengai Oilers 10-5 and claim the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Championship Cup, both teams earning promotion to the 2018/2019 Kenya Cup.

KCB rugby players celebrate after winning the Kenya Cup final against Kabras Sugar on March 24, 2018 at KCB Sports Club. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

KCB rugby players celebrate after winning the Kenya Cup final against Kabras Sugar on March 24, 2018 at KCB Sports Club. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Safari Sevens tournament may have made a return to its traditional venue of RFUEA grounds in November after seven-years period during which it was held at Nyayo National Stadium and Kasarani, but Kenya’s premier sevens rugby tournament struggled to attract teams and fans.

The tournament was marked by low attendance by fans and visiting teams, forcing organisers to reduce it to a 12-team, draw.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) fired Kenya Simbas coach, Jerome Paarwater, in December last year, the South African having handled the team since 2012.

Paawater also almost guided the Simbas to the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where the team failed to qualify on superior aggregate. Namibia got the nod during the 2014 qualifiers alongside automatic qualifiers South Africa.

Kenya Shujaa players celebrate with the runners-up trophy after losing 21-14 to Samurai International in the the 2018 Safari Sevens Main Cup final at the RFUEA Grounds on November 11, 2018. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Kenya Shujaa players celebrate with the runners-up trophy after losing 21-14 to Samurai International in the the 2018 Safari Sevens Main Cup final at the RFUEA Grounds on November 11, 2018. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

KRU would appoint New Zealander Ian Snook as Kenya Simbas head coach, with his fellow countryman Murray Roulston as his deputy on March 19 this year.

Their first assignment was the Africa Gold Cup that doubled up as the 2019 Rugby World Cup Africa qualifier tournament from June 16 to August 18.

Kenya performed well but the journey to the 2019 Rugby World Cup again looked so near yet so far. The Simbas beat Morocco 28-24, overcame Zimbabwe 45-36, Uganda 38-22 and triumphed against Tunisia 67-0 to set up the final clash against champions Namibia.

In the end, it looked an easy hurdle to scale for Namibia, who won 53-28 to book their automatic ticket to the 2019 Rugby World Cup set for Japan.

After failing to qualify for the 2019 World Cup through the Africa Gold Cup, Simbas, who finished second, got another chance to try and qualify from the tough Repechage tournament held between November 11 to 23 in Marseille, France.

Kenya Simbas coach Ian Snook looks on at the RFUEA ground on October 31, 2018 before their departure to France for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Repechage qualifiers slated for November 11 to 23. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

Kenya Simbas coach Ian Snook looks on at the RFUEA ground on October 31, 2018 before their departure to France for the 2019 Rugby World Cup Repechage qualifiers slated for November 11 to 23. PHOTO | CHRIS OMOLLO |

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