The first leg of the National 7s Circuit-Dala 7s is well behind us now, but before discussing anything in relation to the tournament, let’s take a moment to really appreciate all the teams for putting up a brilliant show at the Lakeside City.
A 14-all Nondies Vs Nakuru draw opened proceedings at Dala on Saturday while a 17-5 KCB win over arch-rivals Kabras brought down the curtains on an exhilarating two-day event at the Mamboleo Stadium in Kisumu which saw current champions Menengai Oilers finish sixth.
We take a look at the; new, brilliant, exciting, unexpected, promising, and disappointing and what that spells for the title race.
Strategic recruitment and investment at the den are already paying off, and handsomely as well (no pun intended).
A welcome selection headache for the Dennis Mwanja and Andrew Amonde-led technical team with a large pool of talent to choose from.
Edmund Anya who made the move from Impala is already showing massive Return on Investment. Starring for the bankers on both days of the weekend, he secures an integral role in the green puzzle.
Elvis Olukusi is slowly but surely in line to fill in the massive shoes left by Amonde and Davis Chenge; burly forwards charged with maintaining chaos and order in equal measure when called upon.
Brian Wahinya and Samuel Asati have firmly stepped into the shoes of a Shaban Ahmed and Michael Wanjala combination and by the look of things it is the beginning of a long reign for the pair at the den.
Good to see Levy Amunga back in the thick of things; resolute in defence and adaptable in attack, he is a big game starter. Hoping to see more of him in the shorter version of the game after largely staying in the shadows in the concluded longer version.
A few names who did not feature in Dala but would still fit into the team called upon include wingers Geoffrey Okwatch and Michael Kimwele, Johnstone Olindi, Elvis Namusasi who joined the bankers from Mombasa, Trevor Arin who came in from Mean Machine, not forgetting the Adunga brothers. Another squad capable of going toe to toe with any side in the circuit.
2.Oilers still a class act
The defending champions were off to an undesirable start as the National 7s Circuit kicked off on the shores of Lake Victoria.
A 14-12 loss to eventual winners KCB in the quarter-finals and a 12-5 loss to Mwamba in the fifth-place play-off saw them finish sixth ahead of Driftwood sevens.
This however does not represent the Gibson Weru-coached outfit entirely. They are still a joy to watch- serving us ‘champagne rugby’ indeed.
Silky smooth and structured in their play, the Nakuru-based side showed they still have what it takes to replicate their exploits from the past season.
With John Okoth, Denis Abukuse leading from the front, they provided a good platform for their sleek backs in the likes of Davis Nyaundi and Steve Arunga to put on a skill show. Definitely title contenders regardless of the not so expected start.
3.International players make immediate impact
Shujaa stars lit up the first leg of what promises to be a scintillating 7s circuit with selectors eyeing a team that will reclaim Kenya’s world sevens glory.
Anya was the most notable of the lot on day one, his fancy footwork and pace giving the bankers the much-needed go-forward.
The self-proclaimed King George Ooro led Leo’s onslaught in each battle, most notably against Kabras, reminding all and sundry why he deserves to be crowned.
Okoth and Abukuse were massive for the Oilers, showing their experience on and off the ball. Despite a sixth place, the two were massive for the champagne rugby.
Kevin Wekesa and Brian Tanga were instrumental in Kabras’ Dala final appearance. Wekesa’s massive work-rate, and speed and tries bailing out the millers on a couple of occasions.
Ronny Omondi was massive for Mwamba, the pocket rocket at the centre of proceedings for Kulabu at every turn despite an injury to his eye on day one.
A thorn in the flesh for any defence and it would not be an overstatement to call him the most valuable player for Mwamba at the moment.
Leos beat Quins 24-19 for third-place honours, the tight margin telling a story of the type of competition we can all look forward to in the upcoming legs.
Quins have obviously shifted gears and will be aiming to conquer the National circuit, appointing Paul Murunga as head coach and roping in exciting talent from Homeboyz a testament to that.
Leos look dangerous early on, Ooro and Madigu the usual culprits leading the ever-present student threat.
Despite going down to an immensely experienced and eventual winner KCB in the semis, the students have a case to make. Watching them dominate Kabras in the group stage was a clear enough indication that they can overrun any team.
Mwamba and Homeboyz
We start with the Deejays case. Losing key talent over the past two seasons, a young squad and the absence of a majority of senior players coming into the opening leg could not stop them from reaching the main cup quarters.
The return of some senior players in their camp will bring much more needed experience to the forwards’ department who now have to look upto former Mombasa stalwart Patrick Mwakina for leadership.
A young, promising squad that will contest for the title in the coming year(s).
Mwamba were slow off the blocks in Dala, crashing out of the main cup quarters, but were quick to make amends with a fifth-place win over Oilers. Kulabu are missing the services of Namusasi and Tendwa who were regular starters last season. They also have big shoes to fill with Injera already part of the management, Billy Odhiambo is not doing ‘kid things’ anymore and Tony Owuor seems to be slowing down.
The return of Stephen Sikuta to partner Eliakim Kichoi and the availability of Shujaa ace Tony Omondi proved a welcome boost for the 2022 Driftwood champions.
5.Kabras slowly getting better in 7s
After their triumphant victory in the 2017 National 7s Circuit, Kabras experienced a period of inconsistent performance in the 7s format. However, the team showcased a promising turnaround last season, displaying glimpses of their true potential, which culminated in their win at the Kakamega 7s tournament.
This past weekend, Kabras navigated through to the final of the competition. Initially, their prospects seemed uncertain, especially after a physically demanding encounter against the formidable Strathmore Leos. Yet, they demonstrated great resilience, bouncing back strongly against Mwamba and displaying remarkable determination to eliminate the talented Quins team.
Ultimately, Kabras succumbed to a defeat against the formidable KCB side, but their performance up until that point was a testament to their renewed competitiveness.
Their strong start to the season has generated excitement among fans and pundits alike, eager to witness how they will fare in the upcoming final tournaments.
A smooth two-day event at the Mamboleo stadium by all standards. Timings were largely adhered to. A superb rugby experience for the fans, and an even bigger after-party for revellers. I would definitely recommend it!