L Rugby Afrique
News and intrigues that made Kenya Rugby in 2018
By Patrick Korir | Mon 31 Dec, 2018 14:45

Curtains to year 2018 will hit a middle close this very day and soon it will be a whole new year – 2019. In the 12 months that made the year, what was in it for Kenyan rugby?

Ofafa Jericho proved a point with two tournament wins as Upper Hill School 15s team scaled a new frontier in local rugby scene. Laiser Hill continued to be the dominant force they are, not only within the country, but in the region.

KCB ruled the Kenya Cup once again with an unbeaten run as Homeboyz registered a first in the 15s game as well as hit the highest podium in the sevens game.

Mean Machine made a bold return to the Kenya Cup as upstarts to rugby in 2016 Menengai Oilers continued their meteoric rise to join the big boys’ party.

The Kenya 7s set a new high in making it past the century point’s barrier for the first time ever at the HSBC World Sevens Series, but lows at the World Cup and Commonwealth games, within a year of highs still leave many a fan livid.

Kenya Lionesses had history to make too, ending four years of being second best in the continent to be crowned Queens of Africa. It earned them a place in Dubai 7s.

Off the pitch, politically, there was the return of four Directors to the Kenya Rugby Union board at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) and a key change of guard to its secretariat.

Masinde Muliro University left the Nationwide league unblemished and accompanied by Kitale RFC, trooped their way to the second tier Championship league.

Not to be forgotten was a failed New Zealand project, as coaches from the famed nation fell short of delivering Kenya 15s to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Exactly what shall the year 2018 be noted for?

January

Betting firm SportPesa cancels all local sports sponsorship, that to rugby too, in response to Government imposition of 35 per cent tax on all gambling revenues. It brought a sad end a mind boggling Kshs 0.6 billion entered with KRU, as headline sponsors, entered in July 2016 over five years. Sponsorship to Kenya Cup side Harlequins the same year, to the tune of Kshs 50million a year for five years also ended

Nondies deducted ten Kenya Cup points for fielding ‘ineligible’ players. They successfully appeal and earn their points back weeks later

Kenya Lionesses beat Kenya Women’s Volleyball team, Telkom Orange (Hockey), national cricket team and Harambee starlets to be named the team of the year in the Safaricom Sports Personality of the year award (SOYA).

Kenya Cup side Mwamba and Stanbic Bank announce the renewal of their shirt sponsorship deal for another year till January 2019. The bank signed up as the Club’s main sponsor in December 2016 and was unveiled as the official shirt sponsor in March 2017

February

Former Mean Machine and Kenya 7s star Lucas Onyango returns to old club Oldham RLFC to assist the coaching and backroom staff. He spent six years at the club in his playing days.

KRU Championship side Kisumu RFC lands a Kshs 3 million sponsorship from leading airliner Silverstone Air Services for the season

March

Strathmore School beats Githiga High 34-14 at Nairobi School to retain their spot in Prescott Cup. The latter is sent down to Damu Pevu

Kenya U20 aka Chipu coached by Paul Odera settles for Silver in the Southern region Barthes Cup (Africa Cup) after going down 37-18 to host Namibia

Gallant KCB hits hard fighting Kabras Sugar at their KCB den to retain the Kenya Cup unbeaten. Their team II ended Impala’s run to scoop the Eric Shirley Shield at USIU to complete a perfect season for the bankers.

Thomas Opiyo, Joshua Aroni and Oduor Gangla reelected as KRU vice chair, Treasurer and Honorary Secretary, in that order. They are joined at the board by Hillary Itela as Oscar Mango made a swift return.

April

KRU announces the arrival of Ian Snook and Murray Roulston – both from New Zealand - as the attack and defense coaches of Kenya Simbas for the next one year. The Simbas post was vacant since the exit of South African Jerome Paarwater in December 2017.

Willy Ambaka scored his 100th try in the HSBC Seven Series as Kenya Sevens beat Canada 31-10 in their opening match of the Hong Kong 7s. He joined a rare league only achieved by siblings Collins Injera (now with 271 tries) and Humphrey Kayange (159)

An extra time drop goal by Daniel Katerega earns Upper Hill school a 15-12 win over Menengai High at Kangaru school in Embu for their first ever National School’s 15s title. Kakamega High stopped St. Mary’s Yala 16-3 for Bronze

Former Newcastle Falcons back rower Joshua Chisanga joins Polish side Orkan Sochaczew on an eight month deal

Kenya 7s qualifies for Hong Kong 7s final to make it two in a row for the first time to follow on the same fete at Vancouver 7s the weekend before. Ian Minjire got his debut at Hong Kong to become the fifth new player in the Series - and 20th overall player  used in the season - after Herman Humwa (Dubai), Samuel Ngethe & Arthur Owira (Cape Town) and Eric Ombasa (Sydney).

Both Kenya Lionesses and Shujaa miss out on Commonwealth games podium finishes at the Gold coast, Australia. Lionesses are placed sixth, Shujaa eighth. Owira suffers a femur injury at the event and is ruled out for the rest of the season

Mean Machine and Menengai Oilers earned Kenya Cup promotion after 18-0 and 32-3 wins over Western Bulls and Kisumu RFC, correspondingly. Machine goes on to scoop Oilers to the Championship title.

MKU Thika stripped Central regional nationwide title for fielding ineligible player. Losing finalists Kiambu take the crown

Decazeville, home to Kenya lock Simon Muniafu, suffers relegation from French Federal 2 league after a loss in their final season fixture to L’isle Juordain

May

Ofafa Jericho beats RVA 10-0 to win their first ever St. Mary’s Blackrock title. RVA’s Janrich Volshenk was named the MVP.

Homeboyz beats Impala 21-3 at RFUEA grounds to win maiden Enterprise Cup. Their half back Johnstone Olindi was named MVP. Strathmore Leos beats KCB 19-3 to the Mwamba Cup at Impala for their first 15s title in seven years

Kenya Lionesses, tired of being runners-up in Africa for the last four years, engaged one more gear to claim their maiden Africa Cup by beating Uganda 29-7 in Gaborone, Botswana to win the Africa 7s title

Former Impala forward Lameck Dunde guides Italian side Cus Milano to second tier promotion

Masinde Muliro University hits Kitale RFC 27-6 in Kakamega to win the 2017/18 third tier Nationwide league unbeaten. Both earned promotion to the Championship after semi wins over Eldoret and Impala’s Swara’s.

Kenya 7s close the ranks after the HSBC World Series with a record 104 points. At the end of the ten-part series Oscar Ouma – the stand-in captain in six of the ten legs is named to the season’s dream team and Kenya 7s as most exciting team.

June

Ahead of the Kenya's Africa Gold Cup campaign, Kenya Breweries Limited through their brand Tusker unveiled a Sh53 million two-year sponsorship for the national rugby 15’s side. It took effect from last year

Upper Hill takes down RVA 38-6 at St. Mary’s to make it three straight Prescott Cup wins. RVA’s fly half Micah Smith was named the MVP

Crisis in Paris, France as Kenya 7s players mask off ‘Make it Kenya’ brand on their jerseys as a means of protestations over payments from Brand Kenya to KRU that never hit their pockets. The sponsorship is later revoked during a road side declaration by the Cabinet Secretary of Tourism Najib Balal but is later reinstated to the end of the year

Kenya Simbas in historic win over hosts Morocco in their first away Africa Gold Cup clash of the year. They had never won on Moroccan soil. It ended 24-28 to the Simbas.

Kenya 7s coach Innocent Simyu sacked by KRU under bizarre circumstances. He is to be reinstated weeks later after the intervention of the Cabinet Secretary of Sports.

KRU Championship side Catholic Monks received shirt sponsorship from Versman Kenya after nailing a partnership with L’Oreal East Africa

Kenya Simbas assistant coach Murray Roulston resigned due to what he called 'unfulfilled promises' by KRU. Weeks later he recoiled back to his role 

Lawrence Buyachi named coach of championship side South Coast Pirates. He takes over from Ken Andola

July

Laiser Hill beats Chavakali High 26-5 at the Eldoret Sports Club to the crowned the National School’s Sevens champions. St. Peter’s Mumias beat Dagoretti High to the bronze

Kenya Simbas slay Uganda 38-22 at RFUEA grounds to retain the Elgon Cup with a 72-38 aggregate score

Strathmore School relegates St. Mary’s from the Prescott Cup after a clinical 62-3 playoff win at their backyard

Stanbic Bank Kenya announces a Ksh 9 million partnership deal with the Kenya Rugby Union for the six-part 2018 National Sevens Circuit. Weeks later Telkom Kenya joined in with a Kshs 4.2 million deal to become the official communications partner of the circuit

Kenya 7s delivered an unforgettable performance at the 7s World Cup in San Francisco, USA in finishing eleventh out of 16 teams with one win in seven games. The team had made the semis at the same platform in 2009 and 2013

August

KRU and CEO Ronald Bukusi part ways. His place is taken by Director Sylvia Kamau on an interim basis till the turn of the year

Blak Blak from Kenyatta University became the new Kenya University Sports Association (KUSA) Champions after seeing off Strathmore Leos 24-7 in the fifth and final leg of Kings of Rugby at the University of Nairobi on Sunday 5 August.

Laiser Hill wins the East Africa 7s title in Rwanda with an unbeaten six-game run. Chavakali High and St. Peter’s Mumias ended up as first and second runners-up, respectively. Laiser’s Nicholas Katu was named the MVP as Chavakali’s Caleb Kosgey was the joint top try scorer with five tries. Upper Hill won the East Africa 15s title unbeaten, their first.

Mwamba sends coach Kevin Wambua for a two-week coaching course at the famed Crusaders International High Performance Unit (IHPU) in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Namibia shutters Kenya's perfect five match unbeaten streak with a 53-28 win in Windhoek to qualify directly for 2019 Rugby World Cup and dispatch the Simbas to a four-nation repechage

Kenya Cup side Kabras Sugar stretches far and wide to rope in South African Henley du Plessis as new head coach. He took over from Charles Cardovillis whose two year term from the onset of the 2017 season was cut short after a year via sms.

September

Homeboyz reclaim National Sevens circuit. Laiser Hill alumna Daniel Taabu of Mwamba conquers the NSC and is ultimately named the MVP. Homeboyz flyer Mark Wandeto was named the NSC top try scorer with 37 touchdowns. 

For a second straight year KCB heads to South Africa for high performance preseason camp. Their coach Curtis Olago had attended a similar one in July

Kenyan referee Victor Oduor receives Level 3 accreditation from the World’s rugby governing body, World Rugby.

KRU Communication chief Micheal Kwambo - a former Impala and three-time Kenya Cup winner with KCB - calls it a day after nine consecutive years in part time and full time media. He soon takes up a PR job

A fresh 15s Varsity League organized by Kenya University Sports Association (KUSA) is launched. It targets 8 Varisities with games to be played over five weekends

October

Kenya rugby mourns the demise of pioneer referee Osborne Bulemi. His passing on came days after that of founder of coastal side South Coast Pirates George Barbour - a former Tuskers and Simbas player.

Paul ‘Pau’ Murunga appointed new Kenya 7s coach taking over from Innocent Simiyu’s whose two year tenure lapsed in mid-October. Mwamba RFC and Kenya Lionesses head coach Kevin Wambua is named his assistant taking over from William Webster with Geoffrey Kimani and Lameck Bogonko retained as strength and conditioning coach and physio respectively.

BLAZE renews partnership with Impala for third year in a row with KES 1.8 million sponsorship for October's Impala Floodlit title tourney. Later KCB narrowly dispatch host Impala 20-18 to retain the title. Their stalwart Francis Mwita was named the MVP. Ofafa Jericho beats Alliance 5-3 to reclaim the schools trophy they last won in 2013.

Bamba TV and KRU announce Ksh 35 million wholesome partnership broadcast deal a year for the next five years

Kenya 7s settles for Africa Cup Silver after falling 17-5 to determined Zimbabwe Cheaters at Jemmal Stadium in Monatsir, Tunisia

Kenya 7s Strength and Conditioning coach Geoffrey Kimani announced he would not be signing a new contract ahead of the 2018/19 HSBC World Sevens Series. This came three weeks after he had reappointed to the role. Head coach 'Pau' temporarily slots in to fill the gap

Fullback Trevor Asina kicked in a last minute penalty goal to help Mean machine beat Blak Blad 15-12 and win the inaugural Varsity League at UoN grounds.

November

Kenya misses out on the 2019 World Cup after falling to Canada, Hong Kong and Germany during the repechage in Marseille, France

Nondies call in England legend and Italy’s backs coach Mike Cat for their annual dinner as Homeboyz confirm Simon Odongo as their new head coach

Menengai Oilers make their Kenya Cup debut with a respectable 27-0 loss to five-time champions KCB. Later on a solid Nondies ends KCB’s 20-month unbeaten run at the Den with a 27-22 win.

Safari Sevens makes a return to the RFUEA grounds for the first time since year 2010. Samurai beats Kenya 21-14 to lift the main crown.

New look Kenya 7s introduce five debutants to the HSBC Sevens World Series; Daniel Taabu, Johnstone Olindi, Vincent Onyala, Brian Wahinya and Charles Omondi across Dubai and Cape Town 7s. The team earns four points. Team Manager Eric Ogweno who was not confirmed to the post earlier in October resurfaces

Kenya 15s coaching vacancies fall vacant after KRU releases coaches Snook and Rouslton after Kenya falters at the World Cup repechage.

December

Schools 15s champions Upper Hill, runners up Menengai High and National 7s and East African champions Laiser Hill Academy nominated for SOYA set for 11 January 2019 in Mombasa

Kabras forward George Nyambua retains his Michezo Magharibi Awards as the event commemorated its sixth edition in Bungoma. Kabras Sugar RFC utility front-row Ephraim Odour took home the Promising Player award as Collins Injera nailed the Rugby Player of the Decade award. The Simiyu family – Innocent, Victor Sudi et al were recognized for their sporting prowess

Patrick Korir
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