Shujaa's star Ombachi finds secure haven in carpentry and cooking
France’s Virimi Vakatawa (L) vies with Kenya’s Dennis Ombachi during the Rugby 7 tournament rugby match France versus Kenya on May 13, 2017, in Paris. [AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOPHE SIMON]

Having made a name for himself while representing the Kenya Sevens team on numerous occasions, Dennis Ombachi needs no introduction within local rugby circles. 

Ombachi, who plays for Kenya’s oldest rugby club Nondescripts, is credited with sending the national Sevens side to its maiden Olympic Games in 2016 after scoring a last minute try to help Kenya beat Zimbabwe in the qualifier. 

Away from the sport, Ombachi is also a skilled carpenter and cook and with rugby activities currently halted due to the coronavirus crisis, he is taking advantage of the break to perfect his skills in the kitchen. 

The former Mwamba RFC player attributes his love for cooking to his mother. 

“My cooking story has a lot of influence from my mum. Ever since I was growing up, she raised us to be hands-on in the kitchen and in the farm,” says Ombachi

“As much as I hated it, we were always hands on and that’s where I saw her baking. Her kitchen is also where I was introduced to soy sauce in a not-so-delicious manner when I drank from the bottle, but she kept us all on our toes and now looking back, it was worth it.”

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Apart from earning several caps with Kenya in the World Sevens Series, Ghost Worker, as he is popularly referred to, was also part of the Shujaa squad that played at the 2013 Rugby World Cup in Russia. 

Ombachi clearly recalls that evening on November 15, 2015, at the Barnard stadium in Johannesburg when he helped Kenya Sevens write history, becoming the third Kenyan team after the men’s hockey and women’s volleyball sides to qualify for the Olympic Games. 

With Shujaa trailing 17-14 against the Zimbabweans in the last minute of the contest that would decide Africa’s flag-bearer at the Summer Games in Brazil, Ombachi beat his markers for pace before crossing the whitewash for the match-winning try. 

“My most memorable moment has to be the Olympic qualifiers where we managed to score the winning try after the buzzer had gone. The more time flies the more I am starting to appreciate that day and how luck coupled with lots of preparations didn’t leave us that day,” he says. 

Shujaa's star Ombachi finds secure haven in carpentry and cooking
Kenya Sevens rugby player Dennis Ombachi. [Correspondent]

Now that spending a better part of the day indoors is the new reality for athletes, Ombachi has opted to use this time to try new recipes. 

His array of finger-licking and colourful delicacy easily whets everybody’s appetite. 

Ombachi’s creativity in the kitchen has been inspired by his travels across the world on rugby duty. 

“The cooking passion really intensified when I joined the national team and started travelling the world tasting different cuisines and foods.” 

The coronavirus crisis has also offered Ombachi an opportunity to practise carpentry, an art he learnt briefly during his days at Kisii High School before he opted to switch gears to Electrical Studies.

Former Kenya Sevens coach Benjamin Ayimba, who was in charge of the team during the 2016 Olympic qualifiers, labels Ombachi as a hard worker. 

“His resilience gave me a reason to try him and when I gave him the opportunity to play, he showed how much of a hard worker he was. He was a very instrumental part of the Sevens system,” says Ayimba, who guided Kenya to the 2016 Singapore Sevens title.

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