In the world of sports, Kenya is best known for her athlete’s exceptional performances in field and track events. Road races, marathons, steeplechase are among our specialties. These always get our flag flown at global outings.
Of course the Kenya 7’s team has also made us proud, winning the main cup in the 2016 Singapore Sevens. They’ve been semifinalists twice, in 2009 and 2013, and main cup finalists at Adelaide Sevens 2009 and Wellington Sevens in 2013.
Kenya 7s celebrate their win at the 2016 Singapore Sevens. Photo / SPORTPESA
Taking a good look at rugby, you’ll find it interesting that most of our local rugby teams and players have had a hard time at the sport. They’ve often had to operate on thin budgets. Case in point is the Kenya 15’s side which has a number of times taken on international assignments with virtually no money.
Moreover, many players chose to abandon the sport in favour of their personal interests or professional careers because rugby didn’t bring bread to the table.
Other equally hardworking but not as known sides include the Kenya under 15 side, the under 19s (also known as Chipu) and the national women’s teams. They have quietly done their thing, at times footing bills from their own pockets.
The wonderful news is that this has now changed and the future of rugby is as bright. Last year, gaming company SportPesa announced that they would be injecting a cool Sh 0.6billion into the sport through the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU). The deal signed in July 2016 will run for five years and will also see national teams have the brand name Sportpesa on their jerseys.
It includes boosting age grade sides namely, the Kenya Under-15 XV, Kenya Under-19 VX and the national women’s team XV. There is also a performance-based incentive program for the international assignments.
The Kenya Lionesses. Photo / COURTESY
The deal will also empower Kenya Rugby Union to achieve its mandate of growing the game of rugby in participation and competition. KRU will now ensure all national teams are well prepared before honoring their fixtures and that player welfare is taken care of within the National Team set-up.
It is expected to spur development of Kenya Simbas, the 15s side as they prepare for the quadrennial showpiece for the first time ever after narrowly missing the 2015 edition when they fell to Namibia in their final African Qualifier.
At the moment, there is also committee established by the KRU to ensure that the national 15s team Simba XV features in the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
With only a month to go before the draw for the qualifiers is conducted by World Rugby (WR) the national governing body CEO, Ronald Bukusi announced on Thursday (April 13) they were leaving nothing to chance in the bid to make it to Japan.
He was speaking when the Simbas and Germany Test clash on May 27 received a boost after technology hub Tatu City came on board to sponsor the game with Ksh 5m.
The Test that was sanctioned by governing body World Rugby last week will kick-start the season for Jerome Paarwater’s side that will be seeking to first retain the Elgon Cup against the old enemy Uganda before seeking to reclaim the African title for the first time since 2013.
Simbas will then play in another two tests against Hong Kong in July.
“We are pleased to be playing a pivotal role in this endeavor and wish the 15’s team the very best during the test match,” Stephen Jennings, the founder and CEO of Rendeavour, the owner and developer of Tatu City said during the unveiling of the deal on Thursday (April 13).
Tatu City – KRU signing. Photo / SPORTPESA
“This will go a long way in supporting our team as they prepare for the Test match and for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. We would like to thank Tatu City for its unwavering support for the second year running,” KRU boss, Richard Omwela expressed.
SportPesa has also undertaken sponsorship of the Sportpesa Quins (formerly Kenya Harlequins). The club will benefit in the new arrangement for all players and team officials to be compensated for their efforts during training and at their fixtures.
Sportpesa Quins at a past match. Photo / COURTESY
With such great plans in place and the attention to detail, nothing is being left to chance. It will take hardwork and determination but we’ll get there.
Now you know why we’ll be see Kenya national 15s team Simba XV play at the 2019 world cup in Japan and you can bet on it!