Comrades at Mwamba, Mbai and Wambua on opposite benches

By francis marangu
Nov 02, 2021
  • Mbai was told he was committing a grave mistake by taking over coaching Mean Machine but remains positive. (SNA. File Photo)

  • Kevin Wambua finds himself on the opposite bench to his former club mate. (SNA. File Photo)

John Mbai begins his long journey of turning around the fortunes of Mean Machine RFC this weekend with a difficult away fixture to the Kenya Cup defending champions Kabras Sugar.

Appointed in August as the club’s head coach, Mbai has been busy preparing the team for what is set to be their toughest season over the time.

They are in a tough Pool A alongside two former champions KCB and Nakuru RFC as well as Western Bulls and Mwamba RFC.

“I wouldn't have asked for any other better way to start the season than playing Kabras. Being the last ranked team in the league from last season, pressure will always be on our opponents. Every win for us will be a surprise,” he told Sports News Arena saying relegation is not an option for now.

“We hope to capitalize on that to our advantage. Starting the season thinking about being relegated is the easiest way to relegation.”

Mbai is giving his team good chances of contesting the pool competitively but admits the run will not be easy.

“Kabras, Nakuru and KCB have a more or less the same profile and the sooner we know how to play against them the better. It will be interesting to play against Mwamba having left them the other day,” the coach added.

“I invested a lot with the club and some of the players I introduced will be playing in the league. I want them to succeed but my focus for now is elsewhere.”

Huge task to remain competitive

At Mean Machine, Mbai will have a huge task of making sure they remain competitive throughout the season. His rebuilding process started with an intensive strength and conditioning regime that has gone for six weeks.

The club skipped Impala Floodlit as he focused on ensuring the boys are ready for the season having come from a draining Sevens Series. Mbai says it would have been wrong to rush the players into a competitive tournament without having them in good shape.

“I am trying to have all players at the same level by impacting core skills and improving on conditioning. We have also set our goals for the season that we need to achieve,” he noted.

“I have always heard of stories about players who are not interested and come to training late. When I came here, I was surprised to see 40 to 60 players turn up for a single training session. I found players who know what to do and they are positive.”

Coming from a big club like Mwamba, Mbai adds that taking charge of Mean Machine is a challenge he has embraced with both hands.

“When I took up the challenge to coach this club, most of my friends called me saying I was committing suicide. At times, one needs to test his limits with such a challenge. I want to see Mean Machine improve and return to old days when they used to win trophies.”

The club has made four signings with Iwambe Odoyo and Oyombe Abonyo crossing over from Nakuru and Quins respectively. The duo of Joseph Kariuki and Michael Otieno joined from Comras.

“The fact that we now have players from big clubs showing interest in playing for us is testimony to how good things have changed. We had many other interests from players who feel they might not get enough playing time at their clubs and it's good for us,” Mbai explained.

Otieno banks on consistency

Kenyatta University’s Blak Blad and Western Bulls are the other teams that must be at their best this season to remain competitive.

Blak Blad head coach Michael “Tank” Otieno is banking on their consistency. “We have been going on progressively since getting promoted. We had our best performance last season finishing tenth and our main aim is to progress more,” he observed.

“Our realistic target for this season is to finish in at least ninth position. Not only for us but no team dreams of relegation.” He admitted that playing in the same pool as Quins, Impala RFC and Homeboyz RFC will be an uphill task.

Blak Blad has lost Raymond Lilako to KCB and Andrew Gathua to Kabras. “Tank” will be relying heavily on fresh legs to propel their season.

“As a university, we always lose players because they have to graduate after four years. They have played for us and as much as we will miss them, it's the reality we must live with,” he said. “We have very many first years who have shown the potential and ready to play.”