Absence of Ambaka and Sikuta sparks debate

By the punter
Apr 05, 2017
  • William Ambaka was expected to be in Hong Kong before a new development in a professional contract saw him withdraw. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Dan Sikuta and Leonard Mugaisi will not be in Hong Kong. (SNA. File Photo)

The circumstances which led to two national seven-a-side players withdrawing from the next two legs of the World Rugby Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and Singapore has raised more questions than answers.

William Ambaka and Dan Sikuta withdrew from the traveling party on the day before the team flew out for Hong Kong.

It has emerged that their withdrawal was not known to fellow players and the technical bench.

Andrew Amonde, the team’s captain disclosed Ambaka was supposed to have departed after the Singapore leg of the World Series.

“Willy was supposed to have left after Singapore but then something changed,” the captain explained.

But, the unavailability of Sikuta was communicated before the team departed for the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Monday.

“We received Sikuta’s information as we were leaving for the airport,” Amonde stated.

In their absence, Billy Odhiambo and Leonard Mugaisi were expected to fill up the slots with a positional change being made in the forwards to include Dennis Ombachi.

Odhiambo traveled but Mugaisi remained back for club duties.

“Nothing much we can do now about them. We are focusing on what we can do with what we have,” Amonde resignedly said from Hong Kong.

Release procedure

The manner in which the players failed to travel to Hong Kong has raised questions.

Sports News Arena contacted knowledgeable club officials, past coaches and Kenya Rugby Union and asked: “Can clubs withdraw their players from the national squad with no consequences?”

The answers were mixed. Some gave an emphatic no. “No way. National teams supercede club even at the professional level it is within the World Rugby rules,” they said.

One of the consequences would be for the Union to ban such a player (s) from a local game after a disciplinary hearing.

In this scenario, the KRU Director of Rugby is expected to flex his muscles and inform the clubs of the stipulated regulations. He understands the rules and reports to the KRU Board.

Other club officials differed and said the national team manager should make a request in good time for a release of the players from clubs for national assignments.

When asked to give the order of priority because a player is contracted to the national team and club, an official explained: “Yes, it is possible for a player to be withdrawn from the national team because the national team gets players from clubs. Clubs also contract players.”

The official stated: What happened in this case is that the team manager made a late request for the player to be released for national duties. The request should be made one week before the squad is named.”

In Sikuta’s case, it is not clear whether this procedure was followed. “The only problem from the club (Kabras) is that they pulled the player out at the very last minute."

"You should understand the player has a contract with the club too. The Seven’s contract ends in May and that of the club is for the 2017/2018 season and therefore much more stable.”

Examine contract terms

In their defense, the club officials who agreed with Kabras said under such circumstances, the only way out was to examine the terms of engagement under the contract, period and remuneration in the contract.

Later there were allegations that one of the KRU directors threatened to to withdraw his players from the national squad.

Sports News Arena requested for clarification from KRU and received no response.

Release of players for national duty is captured under Regulation 9 by the World Rugby and sets specific conditions for such release.

9.1: A Union must, in accordance with provisions of this Regulation 9, have the right to a Player’s availability for selection and appearances for a National Representative Team or National Squad of that Union.

9.2: A Union, Association, Rugby Body or Club is obliged to release a Player to the Union for which the Player is eligible when selected by such Union for National Representative Teams or National Squad in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation 9.

9.3: No Union, Association, Rugby Body or Club whether by contract, conduct or otherwise may inhibit, prevent, discourage, disincentivise or render unavailable and Player from Selection, attendance and appearance in a National Representative or National Squad session when such request for selection, attendance and appearance is made in accordance with the provisions of this Regulation 9.