News of a historic appearance by Kenya at the annual Vodacom Cup was watered down by a simmering row between the players, management and the Kenya Rugby Union when the team was named on Thursday.
There has been a “blanket media gag” on the players and team’s technical bench but it has now emerged that all has not been well. Hours before the team’s announcement, the relationship between the team manager Wangila Simiyu and the KRU was icy.
For the upteenth time, Simiyu was on the verge of being “sacked” after he allegedly asked KRU to ensure that the outstanding allowances were paid before departure. It is the same Wangila who resigned in June last year after raising similar issues as the fifteens team was heading to South Africa for a training camp.
The team had vowed to boycott the camp and only traveled after KRU chairman Mwangi Muthee intervened with Michael “Tank” Otieno traveling as team manager.
Sportsnewsarena.com had on Tuesday established that there was reluctance by the team to leave the country without their allowances settled. “They have never paid our bonuses from the time we were in Madagascar. We were only paid for February with the January which we were expecting before departure unpad.”
The source further intimated that the threat to boycott the Vodacom Cup still stands unless the situation improves. The stance was fueled by the fact that shirts sponsor EABL has channeled Sh. 25million towards their campaign while property developer Migaa added Sh. 13million as the short sponsor.
Simiyu threatened with sacking
Simiyu allegedly pressed hard for the matter to be settled by the Union in the past few days in vain. The situation worsened after it emerged late Wednesday that KRU had threatened him with the sack but he stood his ground.
Interestingly, the official naming of the team was initially slated for Wednesday but postponed to Thursday with the hope of resolving the deadlock.
On Thursday, a press conference called at the RFUEA Ground to name the squad was delayed for about an hour as both parties understandably sought to reach consensus.
Muthee later emerged with Simiyu, team captain Wilson K’Opondo and national teams director Ogutu Kadieda and their body language spoke about the possible unease. When he later addressed the media, Muthee wore a brave face and gave the clearest hint that all has not been well.
“There are many challenges we are facing as the union. That is why we ask the players and technical bench to bear with us as we try to meet their demands,” he observed. “We cannot walk into the offices of these corporate (team sponsors) and come out with a cheque. The corporate world has red tape and there are, at times, delays in implementation of agreements and procurement of facilities. So, you cannot succeed without patience.”
Without mentioning names, Muthee dressed down anonymous individuals who he claimed were trying to wash down the drain partnerships realized with sponsors. “Now that we are there, one cannot fathom some individuals showing frustration when some minor issues are taking time to be addressed. Often, what they are being asked is to wait for a few days.”
Tournament to expose players
Simiyu and K’Opondo chose to speak on the team’s preparedness for the tournament that will expose the players to high intensity matches. “We are not going there by accident, this team has really worked hard to activate their participation. We are ready and don’t be shocked if we bring back good results,” Simiyu said.
Ronnie Mwenesi of Nondescript RUFC and Sammy Warui of Nakuru RFC have been left out of the travelling party owing to work commitments. “They were selected but could not make it because they are new in their work places. At the end of the day, we have to consider what puts bread on their table.”
K’Opondo will be deputised by Strathmore University flyhalf Kenny Andola.Emmanuel Mavala and Austine Gumo of Homeboyz RFC, Nakuru’s Martin Owila, Impala’s Robert Aringo, Darwin Mukidza of KCB and Kenya Harlequin’s Edward Oseko will debut for the fifteens team in Cape Town as the technical bench seeks to expose new players.
“Their inclusion says a lot about the talent we have in the Kenya Cup league. Investing in a youthful team is a huge leap into the future now that we are targeting to play at the world cup,” Simiyu added.
Why we gravitate towards the South
Muthee said the players have to maintain high levels of discipline because they will be playing against top teams. He defended the Union's development policy that seems to gravitate heavily to the South where the sevens and fifteens teams coaches come from.
“Many people have been wondering why we are sourcing expertise for our teams from South Africa but we are always after better facilities available there. We go there because we want to be like the best.”
There is a sprinkle of Sevens players in the squad. They are Fabian Olando (KCB), Davis Chenge (Western Bulls), Eden Agero (Quins) and Cyprian Kuto (Strathmore University).
The team is expected to leave the country on Sunday.
Tusker Simba XVs Full Squad: Joseph Kang’ethe, James Kang’ethe (Nondescripts RFC), Curtis Lilako, Musa Amusala, Maxwell Adaka, Oliver Mang'eni, Fabian Olando, Darwin Mukidza (KCB), Duncan Mwangi, Robert Aringo (Resolution Impala Saracens), Edward Oseko, Tony Mutai, Wilson K'Opondo, Lyle Asiligwa, Edwin Achayo, Eden Agero, Isaac Adimo, Nick Baraza, Dennis Muhanji (Kenya Harlequin), Emmanuel Mavala, Joshua Chisanga, Austine Gumo, Leonard Mugaisi (Homeboyz RFC), Davis Chenge (Western Bulls), Mike Okombe, Martin Owila (Nakuru RFC), Brian Nyikuli, Ken Andola, Cyprian Kuto, Tony Onyango (Strathmore University),
Officials: Jerome Paarwater (Kenya XVs High Performance Consultant), Paul Murunga (Assistant Coach), Mitch Ocholla (Assistant Coach), Richard Ochieng (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Christopher Makachia (Physiotherapist), Wangila Simiyu (Team Manager).