No Kenya Cup final, Shujaa mixed results at World Series cap 2020 season
Will Thomas of Wales (L) and Willy Ambaka of Kenya reacts at the conclusion of their men’s rugby sevens round two match durin the Sydney Sevens rugby tournament at Bankwest Stadium on February 1, 2020. (AFP)

No Kenya Cup final as Shujaa post mixed results in World Series

How 2020 became a year of hits and misses in rugby.

At the end of last year, there was no way of knowing what this year would bring in rugby.

Yes, there were some signs; the Kenya Cup season was headed for an epic end after the 2016 champions Kabras Sugar beat holders KCB Rugby for the first time to top the regular season.

Kenya Sevens team was looking to turn around their poor run of form in the World Rugby Sevens Series and locally, Strathmore Leos and Masinde Muliro University were on the front seat in the battle of promotion from the KRU Championship.

And then the coronavirus breakout was reported in Wuhan, China that seemed to Kenyans, at least, to be somebody else’s problem until it hit the local scene and sports had to be suspended.

What 2020 became was a series of rolling hits and misses, disappointments and fear.

“2020” became a catch-all social media expression for destruction, unpredictability and backup plans as the world buckled under a pandemic.

 

Kenya Cup

The Kenya Cup was stopped abruptly after Covid-19 disrupted the global sporting calendar.

Kabras and KCB Rugby ended the regular season at the top of the standings with one loss each. However, the sugar millers were at the summit with 74 points, three points better than the defending champions.

The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) then declared that there will be no Kenya Cup winner for the 2019/2020 season owing to the virus disruption.

However, the KRU Championship play-off will take please before the new season to know which two team will be promoted.

Kabras Sugar and KCB had secured direct places to the semi-finals playoffs after finishing first and second.

Homeboyz were to meet Oilers in the play-off with the winners expected to face KCB in the semi-finals while Kabras Sugar were to wait for the winner between Impala Saracens and Mwamba.

Western Bulls and Kisumu were relegated to the KRU Championship after finishing bottom of the table.  

In the championship, former Kenya Cup side Strathmore Leos topped the standings after finishing unbeaten in the regular season with 76 points followed by Masinde Muliro University with 67 points.

Leos were to face the winner between Northern Suburbs and United States International University (USIU) as MMUST meet the winner between Mean Machine and Egerton Wasps.

No Kenya Cup final, Shujaa mixed results at World Series cap 2020 season
Tom Sarg (with ball) of Samuari tackled by Andrew Amonde (C) and Geoffrey Okwatch of Shujaa during their Tusker Safari Sevens 2019 tournament match against Samurai at RFUEA Grounds on October 20, 2019. Shujaa won 19-14. [Photo/Stafford Ondego/www.sportpicha.com]

The Championship playoffs were rescheduled for this month, but that has since been pushed to a later date after the Government suspended re-opening of high risk contact sports like rugby.

Among the highlights of the Kenya Cup season was Kabras Sugar finally ending their winless run against KCB after beating them for the first time after winning 19-6 in a match played on November 30 last year at Ruaraka.

Ugandan international Asuman Mugerwa’s two tries and another try from Fijian winger Timosi Sinaite was enough to give the millers victory.

KCB Rugby had, in the previous season, beaten Kabras Sugar 23-15 last year May to lift the Kenya Cup in Kakamega to win their third consecutive title against Kabras.

The Enterprise Cup also failed to end, having reached the semi-finals stage. Defending champions Kabras Sugar were to take on Homeboyz while Impala Saracens were up against KCB Rugby.

 

Kenya Sevens

The national men’s rugby team, Shujaa, was looking to turn around their poor run of form in the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Series season.

This was backed by the appointment of World Cup winner Paul Feeney in September last year to lead the struggling team.   

The New Zealander, who won the World Cup with Fiji in 2005, signaled bright future for Shujaa after guiding Morans to Safari Sevens victory.

Kenya’s second string outfit stunned South Africa’s Blitzbokke 19-14 on October 20, last year at the Safari Sevens tournament final.

However, Feeney struggled to maintain his winning formula with Shujaa despite the return of senior Kenya Sevens players who had boycotted the previous season.

Even with the World Series’ second placed all time highest try scorer Collins Injera, William Ambaka, Nelson Oyoo, Billy Odhiambo, Dan Sikuta and Eden Agero in the fold, Shujaa kept registering mixed results

As the Covid-19 cases around the world surged, World Rugby was forced to end the Series. The Singapore, Hong Kong, England and France legs were cancelled.

Kenya finished 12th in the standings with 35 points after six legs, having reached two Main Cup quarter-finals in the Cape Town and Hamilton legs.  

Out of the 28 matches played in the six legs, Shujaa won seven, drew two and lost 18 matches and dotting 70 tries and 430 points in the process

No Kenya Cup final, Shujaa mixed results at World Series cap 2020 season
April 8, 2018 – Kenya’s Billy Odhiambo is tackled by Fiji’s Samisoni Viriviri.[ REUTERS]

KCB winger Vincent Onyala finished as Kenya Sevens best player in the 2020 World Series with 13 tries and 65 points putting him ahead of Alvin ‘Buffa’ Otieno and veteran scorer Injera who had eight tries each.

Onyala also finished as Shujaa’s top tackler and top runner after registering 36 tackles and 66 runs ahead of Andre Amonde (31) and Jeff Oluoch (65).

Kenya’s only good performance was in Cape Town where the team reached the quarter-finals, having beaten among other teams, South Africa 36-14.

New Zealand were declared the champions after collecting 115 points in the Series. They won the Cape Town, Hamilton and Vancouver legs. Defending champions South Africa were second with 104 points with wins in Dubai and Los Angeles.

A statement from KRU on June 12 indicated that Feeney had resigned as Technical Director by mutual consent.

Feeney, who had already returned to New Zealand, had apparently left the role at the end of April owing to what KRU said was “uncertainty around the Covid-19 situation and the need to be at home with his family in New Zealand”.

Feeney had been appointed Kenya Sevens head coach in September last year and handed a three-year contract.

Under his management, Kenya Sevens won the 2019 Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens in Johannesburg, South Africa, to secure qualification to the 32nd Olympic Games which will now take place in Tokyo, Japan next year.

On September 8, former 15s and Kenya Sevens captain Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu was re-appointed as the new Shujaa coach after formerly coaching the side in 2017 season replacing Benjamin Ayimba.

 

Kenya Rugby League

Finally, the new Kenya Rugby League plans to kick-off matches next year with 14 clubs across two divisions.

Chairman and former Kenyan international Quicks Nyakwakwa said earlier that they plan to incorporate two-tier league with six in the top division and eight in the second tier.

Top Franchises will be drawn from Nairobi, Kisumu, Kakamega, Nakuru and Mombasa.

Kenya Rugby League is targeting to compete at the 2025 Rugby League World Cup with the national team selected from the leagues.

The 2025 Rugby League World Cup will be the 17th staging of the Rugby League World Cup. The tournament is expected to include 16 men’s teams as well as a women’s competition, the same as is planned for 2021.

The league is expected to spice up the local rugby league and attract more sponsors.

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