Prinsloo Sevens, the third tournament of the Kenya Rugby Union National Sevens Series Circuit could have a different winner if the opening two could be used as a yardstick.
Homeboyz won the opening leg in Mombasa and Impalaretained the George Mwangi Kabeberi Sevens a week later in Nairobi.
After a week’s break, two-time finalists Menengai Oilera and Nakuru RFC are at home in what has already proved to be a competitive Circuit.
What makes Nakuru an attractivedestination is not only the breathtaking scenery on the way but the prospect of seeing some of the players who have developed from the grassroots to club rugby.
Unknown to many, most of the rugby players in Nakuru are homegrown. Some of the top players are products of a vibrant production line where they start as ball boys before graduating to mini rugby.
Any weekend, long before a big match, the rugby ground is always a hive of activity with these young players trying out their skills. They remain on the ground to watch the seniors play.
These youngsters eventually attend schools in or near Nakuru and even progress to universities. Their ties to Nakuru are strong and most likely, their will turn up for one of the sides.
Some of these players are self-employed which gives the coaches a luxury of having a session at midday! It is a very good model but dedication takes it to the next level and gives the coaches a chance to work on skills and other facafets of the game.
“I think the structures in Nakuru has enabled the focus to the player and the game. You can cllearly see that a lot ha sgone in the development of the player’s core skills,” observes John Onyango-Mbai, the Strathmore University head coach.
Menengai Oil sponsorship
It is this scenario which has attracted the attention of Menengai Oli who came on board as sponsors.
Nakuru RFC has not been able to absorb all the talent which saw the formation of Menengai Oilers in 2016. Gibson Weru, a former national 7’s assistant captain was appointed as head coach and the team participated in last year’s circuit.
They head Pool B of the Prinsloo Sevens which also has Kenya Harlequin FC, Mwamba and Western Bulls.
Strathmore University who was one of the top teams at Kabeberi Sevens are top of Pool C ahead of Homeboyz, Mean machine and Mombasa. With the exception of Mombasa, Strathmore University have played the other two.
The students had a change in mental attitude which saw them finish third at Kabeberi Sevens. “They gave it their all and I just hope the officiating was consistent.” the Strathmore head coach says.
“Prinsloo will be tougher. Teams keep improving at each tournament making it very competitive. We need to keep growing in mental toughness and confidence each week,” Mbai added.
Competition is intense on the pitch but on the sides, the coaches have a chance to share ideas which has helped grow the game. “Interestingly, we are still good friends and share coaching ideas and experiences to help each other to get better,” Mbai admitted.
There has been a suggestion that this model where coaches share ideas should evolve into a coaching unit which could help strengthen the national team because it is the clubs who are developing the national team players.
“The suspicion and politics between clubs has kept this from happening. Coaches need to take this initiative because most club officials are politicians,” advised Mbai who was a Kenya 7’s player and team manager.
After two tournaments, teams will not be taking Menengai Oilers lightly. One of the coaches tipped them to do well in the remaining tournaments. “The boys are pushing good ball. They are playing good 7’s rugby. If they stay healthy, they are a true threat to any team,” the coach offered.
Prinsloo Sevens draw
Pool A: Impala, Nondescripts RUFC, Nakuru, Blak Blad; Pool B: Menengai Oilers, Kenya Harlequin FC, Mwamba, Western Bulls; Pool C: Strathmore University, Homeboyz, Mean Machine, Mombasa; Pool D: Kabras Sugar, KCB, Catholic University, MKU (Thika).