Safari Sevens scaled down to 12 teams

By francis marangu
Sep 21, 2021
  • Godwin Karuga, the Safari Sevens tournament director explained the absence of some of the top teams invited for the event. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Safari Sevens has been scaled down to a 12-team event from the traditional 16 teams.

There will be three pools of four teams each taking part in Safari Sevens. Kenya is in Pool A alongside Portugal, Cape Warriors and Rwanda. Pool B has England Saxons, Western Province, KRU Sevens Series champions Homeboyz RFC and Belhar Rockets.

Pool C comprises of defending champions Samurai, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Red Wailers.

The tournament will not have a title sponsor for the second year running. SportPesa and Safaricom are some of the leading sponsors who have teamed up with KRU to make the event a success.

Godwin Karuga, the tournament director explained: “We don't want to engage a title sponsor for now because it becomes their event rather than a KRU event. We have many sponsors coming on board.”

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) will run Safari Sevens concurrently with Africa Cup Sevens starting Friday. Previously, Friday was reserved for the low-key schools competition.

Karuga assured having two tournaments at the same time will not lower the quality of competition. “This will be an exciting tournament and it will be the strongest we have ever had in terms of teams turnout,” he said.

“Rugby Africa requested us to allow some of the teams to participate in both competitions so we will have some countries coming with extra players.” Hosts Kenya, Zimbabwe and Morocco will take part in both tournaments.

Karuga explained that whenever they sent out invites, some were very specific on where they are going to play and quality of facilities. Continued lack of prize money is another reason why some top teams might not be keen on taking part.

“It will depend on sponsorship. If a sponsor comes on board or the government comes in, we can have the prize money as early as next year. It's something that will take a process before being realized,” Karuga explained.

“We have had the big teams in the past but the challenge now is that most of them are in offseason after Olympics. We sent invites to Argentina, USA, Japan and Spain but they felt that they are not ready for the tournament.”

Portugal which was relegated from the core status after the 2015/16 World Rugby Sevens World Series will be in Nairobi to begin their build up for a possible promotion.

He said Kasarani has met the requirements of many teams since it has everything in high quality. “It is the best facility that we have in the country because of the good playing surface and up to 16 changing rooms,” he added.

“The facility is well secured. At Nyayo stadium, we even had trouble getting changing rooms for match officials,”Karuga added.

For the first time in as many years, the Kenyan rugby fan will have the luxury of enjoying three days of high-quality rugby action. Organizers are upbeat this year will be a different one in terms of action on the pitch.

Safari Sevens

Pool A: Kenya Shujaa, Portugal, Cape Warriors, Rwanda; Pool B: England Saxons, Western Province, Homeboyz RFC, Belhar Rockets; Pool C: Samurai, Zimbabwe, Morocco, Red Wailers;.

Order of Play

Saturday: Western Province vs Homeboyz (9 a.m.), Saxons vs Rockets (9:22), Zimbabwe vs Morocco (9:44), Samurai vs Red Wailers (10:06), Portugal vs Cape Warriors (10:28), Kenya Shujaa vs Rwanda (10:50), Western Province vs Rockets (1:24 p.m.), Saxons vs Homeboyz (1:46), Zimbabwe vs Red Wailers (2:08), Samurai vs Morocco (2:30), Portugal vs Rwanda (2:52), Kenya Shujaa vs Warriors (3:14), Morocco vs Wailers (6:10), Homeboyz vs Rockets (6:32), Warriors vs Rwanda (6:54), Zimbabwe vs Samurai (7:16), Western Province vs Saxons (7:38), Portugal vs Kenya Shujaa (8:00).