KRU backs Ochieng to stay on as Kenya 7s coach

By francis marangu
May 19, 2021
  • Coach Felix Ochieng(Right) with Captain Andrew Amonde pose with the Bowl trophy they won in London on Tuesday.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

  • National Rugby sevens players with pose with the Bowl trophy they won in London.(Photo by Shutterspeed)

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU)are not in a rush to make changes to the Kenya Sevens technical bench despite a dull performance in the just concluded season.

KRU Chairman Richard Omwela, who arrived back into the country with the team from London on Tuesday, laughed off talks that the technical bench led by head coach Felix Ochieng could be dismissed.

He maintained that Ochieng had done his best having taken over the mantle at the middle of the season from South African Paul Treu.

“For those who are asking, we are not firing Ochieng. We will not because we believe in him. As a board, we look out for results and we believe he has delivered given the circumstances.”

The real situation at the team will be known after the KRU board meets with the technical bench to receive and review their season’s report.

Already, Ochieng seems set to take the team through off-season preparations with the focus on reinforcing the playing unit for next season.

“We plan to have the best players into a two weeks training camp and then select the best. With the prospect of playing at the olympics, it will be tough selecting a quality squad,” said Ochieng.

When he took over in January, the team collected 18 points from Wellington and Las Vegas legs but their performance took a dip. The subsequent legs have been a struggle for the team ending up in the lower competitions.

“There was regrouping of players which saw us pick up well in the two legs. Later on, we experienced major setbacks like injury of Lavin Asego but we tried as much as possible to build up on our performances,” he explained.

Mixed show

The season was a mixed show for Kenya who finished 13th down from 7th they managed last season. In Gold Coast, they lost 7-40 to Canada in the shield final marking the start of their uninspiring season. In Dubai, they met the same team in a repeat of the shield final losing 12-19.

It was the same opponent in the Port Elizabeth bowl final as Canada won 24-5 to see the untimely departure of Treu as head coach. Ochieng then kicked off his tenure with a semifinal elimination in the plate competition of Wellington Sevens at the hands of Australia.

In Las Vegas, Kenya won bowl beating Argentina 24-21 in final. It was a shield win in Hong Kong for Kenya beating Japan 26-7 and could only reach the shield semifinals in Japan.

In the closing legs, Kenya reached bowl semifinals of the Glasgow Sevens and won bowl in London last weekend beating Argentina 26-12.

Their final day performance last weekend was one of the key highlights for the season as Billy Odhiambo emerged joint top try scorer with seven alongside New Zealand's Rieko Ioane and Madison Hughes of USA.

Collins Injera also reached the 200th try mark ending up with 203 in total.

“It has been a season with mixed emotions, we had our highs and lows. We went to the season knowing that it would be tough on us,” Ochieng said.

“Our day two performance in London just showed what consistency and hardwork can deliver. Getting to the boys after Saturday and instilling confidence was not easy. As the management, we pressed on the need to show the world that we were there to compete.”

He said they will regroup with an aim of bouncing back next season with better performance. Captain Andrew Amonde said all players gave their best throughout the season despite the results going against their expectations.

Kenya Airways to stay on

At the same time, Omwela cleared the air over the fate of the team's sponsor Kenya Airways who were feared could follow the exit door after Safaricom and Bamburi Cement.

He confirmed there was a meeting with CEO Mbuvi Ngunze in London over the same.

“We are in discussion and Ngunze told me to say that they are staying on as sponsors.”

Behind some of the notable performances for Kenya was youngster Bush Mwale. He has been outstanding in just his first season with the team and was scouted by Treu.

His first time to dorn national colours was at the 2014 Safari Sevens before earning a call to Gold Coast when senior players sat out. He has managed to play for the entire nine legs as other young players who started together failed the competition test.

Only Mwale and Amonde played in all legs and he says it has been an experience of its kind.

“It is hard work, discipline and utilizing my opportunities that I was consistent all season and attracted the eyes of the coaches,” he said. “Senior players have motivated me a lot in training and I am ready to retain my position in the team next season.”

His best outings were in Las Vegas and Wellington. “That is when the senior players returned but I still remained in the team as other young players we started with fell off.”