Kenya Women push for inclusion in IRB Circuit

By the punter
Dec 05, 2013
  • Doreen Remour of Kenya women's team at a past training session.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

The immediate goal for Kenya women sevens team is to push for a slot or invite in the IRB circuit.

This conviction comes from two years of a stunning performance in the invitational Dubai Sevens tournament where one leg of the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series is played.

Last year, Kenya Lionesses reached the final of the invitational tournament losing to Maple Leafs, a development team from Canada.

Two of the players in that team are now playing for Canada. Kevin Wambua, the women’s rugby coach noted the Kenyan players have grown in confidence and are no longer overawed by fancied teams.

“We have stepped up on our strength and conditioning and this really showed when we played against teams with much bigger players such as Adler from Germany,” Wambua observed.

Admittedly, the coach understands Kenya Lionesses are still far from reaching the very competitive level to start challenging some of the seasoned women’s teams.

“We haven’t reached the levels we want but are slowly getting there. It’s a work in progress but there’s a strong sense of belief and determination from the girls and that definitely is great for us moving forward,” he said.

Although there is a regular squad, there are a few players who have come up like Janet Akello who finished high school last year. “They bring a healthy competition which is good for the team and prevents seasoned players from getting complacent,” the coach noted.

December break

The team breaks for December holidays but have been advised to train twice a week for 30 minutes before resuming in January to start preparations for the Africa Rugby Confederation (CAR) Sevens tournament which will be hosted by Morocco in March.

The absence of many women competitions has prompted Kenya and Uganda to play build-up matches against the men’s under-19 players. Before travelling to Dubai, Kenya Lionesses played against the under-19 team twice a month.

Since making their debut at the Dubai Sevens, the women’s rugby team has made big steps. The last tour of Dubai ended on a high note when Kenya lost 12-19 to a South African select outfit in the semi-final of the main cup.

This could have been a second tier competition but competition was fierce, just the kind of exposure Kenya needed. The performance was heartwarming after a lackluster performance by African invitees Tunisia to the much more prestigious Womens World Rugby Sevens Circuit.

Tunisia could have got the nod by virtue of playing at the World Cup but South Africa, Kenya and Uganda deserved a slot if their performance in Dubai can be used as a yardstick.

Could the performance in Dubai open more opportunities for Kenya to follow in the footsteps of the men’s team?

Twice Kenya has been invited to the USA to play at the Vegas Sevens but have been unable because of financial constraints.

At the Pool stage in Dubai, Kenya Lioness started on a high note with a 31-0 win over United Arab Emirates scoring five tries. Celestine Navalayo (Masinde) scored two tries while Doreen Remour, Philadelphia Olando and Irene scored one try each. Janet Awino kicked over three conversions.

Swiss Barbarians

The next game against Swiss Barbarians, a semi-professional side who have sevens and 15’s players saw Kenya Lioness win 31-7.

Try scorers for Kenya were Remour, Olando, Masinde, Awino and Camylyne Awuor. Janet Awino kicked over three conversions. The third match was tough against Al Maty from Kazakhstan.

“We started poorly and made a lot of mistakes. Some decisions did not go our way,” recalled Wambua. Kenya Lioness lost 5-24 but recovered for the penultimate pool match against Alder from Germany.

This is a semi-professional side and were physically stronger than the East Africans. “Arguably our toughest match of the day because we had to win to proceed,” explained Wambua.

Although Kenya Lioness conceded two tries, they kept their cool and played to the set structures to emerge 24-19 winners. Try scorers in this match were Masinde, Olando and Janet Akello. Remour kicked over two conversions.

It was heart break When Kenya lost the semi-final 12-19 to a South African outfit after tying the scores 12-12 in the second half.

Kenya could travel to Hong Kong next March if sufficient funds are raised. But, Kenya Lionesses are keen to do well in the CAR Sevens in Morocco next year.