Dubai dream started in 2006

By the punter
Jul 14, 2021
  • Ayimba believes the new format is ill-advised and for top tier teams to easily qualify for the cup quarter finals. (SNA. File Photo)

For the second consecutive time, Kenya qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens hosted by Hong Kong. Benjamin Ayimba was in the team the the captain which had an average age of 37 and captained by Victor Sudi.

The player had worn the arm band when Kenya made their debut in Mar del Plata, Argentina.

But, the roles changed in 2009 when Ayimba was elevated to the role of a coach and, one of the most successful coaches who steered Kenya to their first ever Series final and a historic cup win steered the ‘part-timers’ to the semi-final of the 2009 tournament in Dubai by knocking out the defending champions Fiji.

When SNA interviewed Victor Oduor, one of the star performers in Dubai, he  alluded to the self confidence and hard work by the team.

For Ayimba, the qualification to the semi-final was not a miracle. “It is a dream that started in 2006. My sole purpose when I got the job was to make a difference and the only way was to make the team members know that we were going to win,” the coach boldly stated.

He made a few adjustments. One of these was the inclusion of a sprint coach Geoffrey Kimani and the introduction of weekend camps.

“The inclusion of ‘Kim’ [Kimani] was a major leap despite criticism from some quarters. We also changed to having weekend camps instead of midweek sessions,” Ayimba explained.

The dividends were realised during the Series when at the end of the season, Kenya completed their second season as a core team.

Mood was upbeat

Oduor painted a picture before the tournament kicked off and Ayimba concurred that the mood after training with Fiji was upbeat.

“Very good mood that week since we trained with the champions which boosted our confidence,” the coach recalled.

To complement this, the players were ready to do whatever it took to make a difference. Leadership by the captain, Humphrey Kayange was crucial. “A great leader,” Ayimba admitted.

He also had solid forwards such as Kayange, Ben Nyambu, Allan Onyango and Oduor. “Oduor was exceptional and wanted to justify his inclusion. Allan brought his understanding of the game,” acknowledged Ayimba.

To date, the qualification to the semi-final after beating Fiji ranks as the most memorable establishing Kenya as one of the teams to watch out for in the circuit. Perhaps this was the beginning of the recognition by the commentators who admitted when Kenya showed up, it would be tough to beat them.

“This ranks as a memorable achievement since it was the first time I got revenge over Fiji since the 1998 Commonwealth Games,” Ayimba stated.

When Kenya make their fifth consecutive appearance at the tournament, they must battle it out in the opening round, a straight knock-out where the top eight teams have been spared a bruising battle on the opening day.

Kenya automatically qualified for the San Francisco bonanza by finishing fourth in the last tournament in Moscow, Russia.

Format favors top teams

Ayimba is not impressed by the new format which appears to favor the top tier teams.

“I think it’s ill-advised. We should have gone with the format we are used to. The new format makes it easier for top tier teams to easily qualify for the quarter final. Seeding should have been done according to the last tournament,” he argued.

In 2005, the 24 teams were placed in four Pools of six teams each with the top two teams qualifying for the cup quarter final, the next two dropping to the Plate and the teams finishing in the bottom two competed in the Bowl quarter finals.

Kenya depart for San Francisco on July 15 to begin preparations for the opening match against Tonga on July 20 at 1 p.m. local time.

Kenya team for the RWC Sevens: Oscar Ayodi (captain, Homeboyz), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Andrew Amonde (Kenya Commercial Bank), Samuel Oliech (assistant captain, Impala), Herman Humwa, Eden Agero, William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin FC), Samuel Ng'ethe (Menengai Oilers), Nelson Oyoo (Nakuru RFC), Brian Tanga (Kabras Sugar), Jeff Oluoch (Homeboyz), Dennis Ombachi (Nondescripts RUFC); Officials: Innocent Simiyu (coach), Geoffrey Kimani (Strength and Conditioning), Lamech Bogonko (Physiotherapist), Erick Ogweno (team manager).