New Shujaa boss Simiyu: I’m nobody’s second choice

nnocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu, the new Kenya 7s head coach as per announcement made by Kenya ...
nnocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu, the new Kenya 7s head coach as per announcement made by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) on October 17, 2016. Simiyu takes over from Benjamin Ayimba. Photo/Skarra Abayomi/

Hailed as one the finest players of his generation Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu is keen to ensure his stunning appointment as the national 7s head coach does not go down as a Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) experiment gone wrong.

The former Impala RFC star and coach, 33, was the name out of the hat on Monday when KRU chairman, Richard Omwela named the new man at the helm.

Simiyu will be even more eager to prove himself after Omwela later admitted long-serving ex-New Zealand coach, Gordon Tietjens had rejected the job for Samoa meaning as the Union boss lawyer would say in the corridors of court the former skipper was second-choice ab initio.

“I’m elated and excited for being given the rare opportunity to serve the national team I have been involved in since 2002 when I left high school to this year as a coach.

“Representing Kenya is a big honour and I’m proud to be given this job,” Simiyu told Citizen Digital hours after his appointment on a day his phone rang off the hook once word came out.

He acknowledged he would be taking over from not just a coach but a mentor in Benjamin Ayimba who led the side last season having returned to the post for his second stint.

“Benja was my captain and coach. His are big shoes I have to fill. He appointed me as captain and our thinking is not divergent but it is time to set my own goals and set my own path.

“We both treasure players’ welfare. We have many similarities but how we will do our thing with the team is different. My mission is to make the players better in what they do,” the new Shujaa leader underscored while paying homage to his predecessor.

The soft-spoken but ever smiling decorated player also accepted the period he has between his appointment and his baptism in Dubai when the HSBC World Series rolls off has left him clutching the short end of the stick.

“Yes, the time is short since you need eight weeks. We have not started training and there is a lot of work to do but there is a good base left by my predecessor. So, the task is to make sure the players are ready to play.

“It’s a fact of life you will never get enough time to do everything you want to do and we have to get on with it,” Simiyu who led the national 15s to the Elgon Cup and Victoria Cup victories over Uganda and Zimbabwe unbeaten emphasised.

-Injury blessing-

In 2014, Namcos or Namkoko as the terraces across domestic pitches resounded whenever he donned his playing his jerseys suffered a career threatening injury when his knee was shattered at the Bamburi Rugby Super Series.

It is that low-point in his chequered days as a player that he now sees as a blessing in disguise after taking coaching lessons whilst undergoing intensive treatment to get back on to the pitch.

“(The Late) Steve Jobs once said, in life you join the dots and you get there. If I was not injured, I would not be here,” he philosophically stated.

And does he see himself as second, third or fourth choice for the Shujaa 7s hot seat?

“Everyone who coaches would want to coach the national team. For me, it has come earlier than expected. I was confident in myself and the material I presented to the panel.

“They looked at what I was proposing to take the team forward and believed in what I can do with the team.”

However, he is not counting on achieving his objectives all by his own.

“There is what I think is the way forward but there is the support team, players and the union. When we sit tomorrow (Tuesday) we will come up with a road map which we will make public in due course.”

Simiyu takes over a team still smarting from claims of unpaid allowances owed from last season, an issue he encountered when he was an integral part of the team he captained from 2006 to 2008 and now he has to sit on the other side of the fence as a manager.

“I have not formally started but my success depends on the players. There must be goodwill in resolving the issues we have.

“In every environment there are challenges. I played with (Andrew) Amonde and (Collins) Injera towards the end of my sevens career and they are now in leadership as captain and vice-captain.

“The biggest thing for them is to help the other players become better and lines have to be drawn between players and management,” he asserted.

Simiyu has little time to unveil his first squad with Dubai fast approaching from December 2 where Kenya is pooled against France, Japan and Australia.

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