Shujaa boss Simiyu reiterates player safety is paramount

Kenya Shujaa players celebrate winning the 2016 Safari 7s edition at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on September 25, 2016. ...
Kenya Shujaa players celebrate winning the 2016 Safari 7s edition at Safaricom Stadium Kasarani on September 25, 2016. Kenya beat Samurai 38-21 in the finals. Photo/Stafford Ondego/

National rugby sevens Shujaa head coach Innocent Simiyu has reiterated player safety is paramount in their set up as the sport continues reeling from the passing on of two promising local players with a week of each other.

Speaking after Shujaa arrived from Cape Town 7s in South Africa where they finished sixth, the former national sevens and 15s captain who was kept out of the game for three years by terrible injury sustained on the pitch condoled with the bereaved families.

Simiyu said he was gutted after the sudden death of Mwamba RFC scrum-half Victor Wayodi who collapsed during a Kenya Cup game against Nakuru RFC at the Impala Grounds over the weekend.

“It’s quite unfortunate for what happened and I start by sending my condolences to the family, friends and the entire rugby fraternity. For us this is an accident but we will get more information from the Union.

“I know player safety is key for Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and also for us in the national team,” Simiyu who shattered his knee when playing at the 2011 Bamburi Rugby Super Series stated.

Wayodi became the second player in the Kenya Cup to pass on in a span of a week after Nondescript RFC centre Ogeto Gecheo died from injuries sustained during their game against Strathmore Leos on December 3.

Gecheo suffered a spinal injury at Madaraka Grounds and passed on two days after the incident and was laid to rest on Monday in Njoro.

KRU suspended all domestic rugby activity until next month as investigations into the deaths on the pitch continue affecting Kenya Cup, Rugby Championship, Eric Shirley and Nationwide competitions.

Simiyu, then signed by Impala sustained a career threatening knee injury during the 2011 Bamburi Rugby Super Series before returning to competition in 2014 and last year, was capped in the national 15s team.

-Shujaa improvement-

After a limp start to the 2016/17 HSBC World Sevens Series in Dubai, Shujaa gave a much improved display in South Africa with Simiyu saying it was a sign the side was headed for greater things in the remaining legs of the campaign.

“For me it’s a step at a time and I will focus on the players to make it, we have to look at our defence as we head to the next round because it cost us in Dubai and also somehow, it also cost us in Cape Town.

“There are some areas we need to improve on and off the pitch and we need to manage in all the areas from kick-off to defence,” Simiyu told Citizen Digital.

“There are some areas we are playing well especially when we have the ball so we have to manage the two and work on the defence which we have done so far from when we played at the Safland Invitational Tournament because it requires effort and it will take some time since it is not easy,” the head coach underscored.

Shujaa are now placed 10th in the rankings with 17 points after bagging 12 in South Africa and five from Dubai.

“Our benchmark is to get 10 points per tour and we either are on track or off the track depending on how one looks at it. In Dubai, we were below par but we picked up in Cape Town so from the two rounds, we are at 17 from a target of 20 placing us three points shy,” Simiyu, a former national 7s and 15s skipper emphasised.

He also acknowledged the impact of debutant players on the tour Brian Tanga, Martin Owila and Darwin Mukidza.

“We are happy with our new players. They are integrating into the team well and of course the next thing is for them to build on that performance,” Simiyu added.

The head coach reserved special mention for Billy ‘The Kid’ Odhiambo who made it to the Cape Town 7s World Rugby Dream Team.

“Billy played very well he was our player of the tour. He did that in Dubai and Cape Town but of course others played very well led by the team captain Andrew Amonde in their positions,” Simiyu added.

Kenya will play Argentina, England and a 16th team to be invited by World Rugby at the Wellington 7s on the weekend of January 28 and 29 at Westpac Stadium in New Zealand.

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