As the world prepares to usher in the new year 2023, Scrummage Africa takes a look at the interesting moments in Kenyan Rugby in 2022.
Here are the moments that stood out for us:
Kabras winning Kenya Cup/Enterprise Cup
Kabras RFC finally got their hands on the Kenya Cup trophy after a six-year wait. Prior to the 2022 success, the Kakamega-based side had had the trophy slip through their fingers three times. The first was a 23-15 defeat at Kakamega Showground, when they were defeated in the last minutes by KCB’s strong second-half charge.
In 2020, the team finished first in the league and defeated KCB for the first time in history. However, just when they thought 2020 was their year, COVID 19 hit and the season was canceled.
In 2021 they proceeded to the final as usual, where they met KCB for the fourth time in a row. They took the lead till the 75th minute but KCB miraculously turned around the match and won it in sudden death.
2022 they had to stage comeback to see off Menengai Oilers to reclaim the trophy they had last won it in 2016. They capped off the 2021/22 season with a double following their 9-6 win over KCB at RFUEA Grounds despite missing 12 of their key players who were away on international duty. It was their first double in since their promotion in 2014.
Menengai Oilers winning maiden National 7s Circuit title
Menengai Oilers won their maiden National 7s Circuit two years after winning their first trophy—the Great Rift 10 aside beating opposition from 16 teams.
Oilers earned 113 points to win the championship, and curiously, they competed in all cup semi-finals and had to defeat 2019 Champions KCB four times in a succession to strengthen their title prospects.
On 10 July, Gibson Weru’s charges created history by snapping their five-match losing run in the finals to win the Prinsloo 7s title. A final appearance at Kakamega 7s, where they were defeated 19-7 by Kabras RFC, was enough to secure the championship.
Menengai Oilers stun KCB reach maiden Kenya Cup
Many would have assumed that when Menengai Oilers reached their second Kenya Cup semi-finals and were placed against KCB Rugby, their adventure would come to an end. However, as Head Coach Gibson Weru noted in his pre-season preview, he was eager to close the gap against teams he had not beaten in the Kenya Cup and actualized it against the Bankers and Impala.
His systems worked well in the semis and they ended KCB’s dominance at KCB Sports Club winning 24-17 thanks to Geoffrey Ominde’s eight penalties.
The Nakuru based side proceeded to the final for the first time in history but eventually lost to Kabras.
Fans back as Kenya Simbas roar at RFUEA in Currie Cup
June 4 2022 was a historic day in the history of Kenyan rugby as it was the first day that a Currie Cup match was played here. The Day saw fans return to the stadium to watch the Simbas for the first time since the 2019 Victoria Cup at Nakuru Athletic Club.
The roar in the stands showed how the fans had missed the Simbas and interesting, Paul Odera charges put up an classy display and won 51-34.
Seven days later, the Simbas put up an impressive show as Collins Injera silenced critics who questioned his inclusion by scoring a try and setting up Vincent Onyala in their 41-24 win over Eastern Province Elephants.
National 7s Circuit, ESS return
After a two-year absence, the National 7s Circuit returned on schedule on May 21, 2022. An interesting campaign would follow and different winners were witnessed in each tournament with Menengai Oilers eventually being crowned Champions.
The circuit also introduced new talents to the globe, with the finest performances including George Ooro, Dennis Abukuse, Steve Arunga, Amon Wamalwa, Brunson Madigu and Patrick Odongo among others.
Already, Ooro and Abukuse have received their World 7s Series debuts, and the coach has suggested that more fresh names would be added to the roster.
The Eric Shirley Shield also returned to the calendar in 2022 for the first time since 2019. The Kenya Cup reserve league had been halted because to Covid-19 rules and financial constraints that clubs were experiencing as a result of the pandemic. The league is back, four matches have been played, and the players who use it to gain entry to the Kenya Cup can dream big.
Mwamba win Women’s Kenya Cup
Mwamba Women’s team created history on March 19, 2022, when they defeated Impala Roans 15-11 at the RFUEA Grounds to win the inaugural Kenya Cup women’s title. The Joseph Baabu-coached team scored three tries in the victory, with Kenyan International Janet Okello scoring twice and Diana Omosso scoring once.
The women’s season was established late in 2021 and ran concurrently with the Men’s Kenya Cup, and this is seen as a significant step forward in strengthening the women’s game.
Kenya Lionesses stars secure deals abroad
In February, Kenya Lionesses captain Philadelphia Olando was hired to coach the UAE women’s squad, with the goal of assisting in the growth of the women’s game in the country and passing on her extensive expertise.
Later on, Janet Okello left Mwamba to join Japanese club MIE Pearls Women’s Rugby Football Club only days after leading them to their maiden Kenya Cup triumph. Many people hope that their moves are only the beginning and that they will open the pathway for women to get deals overseas.
Innocent Simiyu leaves Kenya 7s, Damian McGrath takes over
On the evening of May 11, 2022, Kenya Rugby Union announced the departure of Innocent Simiyu and promptly appointed Damian McGrath as his replacement. Kenya 7s had finished third in Africa Men’s 7s and had struggled in the World 7s Series.
The arrival of McGrath offered some Kenya 7s supporters optimism owing to his expertise, but not much has changed in terms of performance, as Shujaa are still struggling to pick up wins despite making significant development in their performances.
McGrath, whose contract runs through 2024, has had a difficult start owing to financial constraints and will need to turn things around soon to keep the hope of preserving core status alive. From 2023 onwards, the number of core sides in the World 7s Series will reduce to 12.
Billy Odhiambo in club 100
On August 27 2022, Billy Odhiambo scored his 100th try for Kenya 7s as they defeated England 19-14 to keep their quarterfinal hopes alive in the Los Angeles 7s played at Dignity Park. He became the fourth Kenyan to reach the milestone, following Collins Injera, Humphrey Kayange, and Willy Ambaka.
The Mwamba rugby club back has now scored seven tries for Kenya 7s this season, bringing his total career tries for Kenya to 108 tries in 283 World 7s Series matches.
Nondies, Impala relegated
Nondies, Kenya’s oldest and most successful rugby team, got relegated after only three victories in 11 matches. Nondies, who are celebrating their 100th anniversary, were defeated 13-7 by Homeboyz in the season finale, finishing with 16 points.
Impala Saracens were also demoted after the league officials utilized leagues manual clause 5c to make the judgment after they matched points with Kenya Harlequin. The Union ruling said:
- Two clubs – Kenya Harlequins and Impala Saracens were level on match points at 17 each after matchday 11.
- As per the league manual point 5 determines league standings in the case that teams are level on match points; No. 5. c directs that the determinant where such a tie exists, as the results of the matches played between the two teams.
- There was only one match between Kenya Harlequins and Impala Saracens on 27.11.2021 that ended 29-20 in favor of Kenya Harlequins.
- As such Kenya Harlequins are ranked 10th in the league and Impala Saracens ranked 11 at the end of the regular season.
- Impala Saracens are therefore relegated to the Championship League in the next season alongside Nondescripts.
Sportpesa returns for Kenya 7s
Just before the Cape Town 7s, Kenya 7s revealed their new jersey which was branded Sportpesa and days later, the betting firm announced that they would sponsor Kenya 7s for the next three years to the tune of 126 million.
Fans now hope that with the financial bit sorted Shujaa will now perform well to avoid being relegated.
Koyonzo, Vihiga shine
Kenya Secondary Schools Sports Association rugby games returned to the schedule for the first time since 2019. Rugby sevens matches took place with top schools such Kakamega, Maseno, Upperhill, Laiser, St Peters failing to shine.
National 7s Championship was won by Koyonzo High School from Western after beating Butula in the finals. The two were making their maiden appearance in the National games. Nanyuki, Nduru, Ofafa and Ngong Township were some of the school that impressed in the shorter version.
Koyonzo however couldn’t win the East African title after they were beaten by Hannah International School from Uganda.
KRU National Prescott Cup 15s matches followed and Vihiga beat Kisii 29-8 to be crowned Champions.
As usual, bad moments did not miss out, some of the worst moments include:
Kenya Rugby Union was hit with financial constrains and this saw Kenya Simbas’ players down tools in Dubai during the final Rugby World Cup qualification round. Kenya 7s players followed suit day’s later as they turned to the online community to fundraise ahead of Dubai 7s. Shujaa how since landed sponsorship from Sportpesa.
Kenya Lionesses players also went five months without receiving their dues.
National Team struggles
Despite an interesting run in the final Currie Cup matches, Kenya Simbas failed to match Namibia and missed out on the direct ticket to the World Cup. In the final tournament, Kenya Simbas played three matches scored 32 points and conceded 175 and this saw Paul Odera leave his role.
In the shorter version, Kenya lost Uganda in the Africa Men’s sevens semis and needed the third place playoff to qualify for the World Cup. In the Commonwealth, Shujaa finished seventh, and managed a 12th place in the World Cup and World 7s Series.
Kenya Lionesses performed dismally and missed the 2022 Rugby World Cup.