Relief. That is what Kenyan rugby fans are feeling after the return of senior players into the Sevens team. The big guns had downed their tools before the start of the 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens Series season following a contract dispute with their employer Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), forcing head coach Paul Murunga to rely on a team of novices who as expected have become the whipping boys.
In their absence, Shujaa have looked anything but the side that was revered around the world for their intelligence, pace and physicality, amassing just 18 points from six legs, three of which they have lost every match. That has left Kenya in danger of losing their core team status as they sit 14th on the 22-team table just four points ahead of Japan who lead the relegation-threatened teams.
With the team in such a precarious position, the calls for KRU and senior players to resolve their dispute have never been louder and the two parties seem to have yielded to pressure and worked out a solution on Monday evening.
This was evident during yesterday’s training session where nine key players namely Eden Agero, Andrew Amonde, Collins Injera, Billy Odhiambo, Dennis Ombachi, Nelson Oyoo, Willy Ambaka, Jeff Oluch and Augustine Lugonzo attended the early morning fitness tests at the RFUEA grounds.
Playmaker Sammy Oliech is yet to return from a knock received during a Kenya Cup match but is expected to join the rest while the fate of forwards Oscar Ouma and Oscar Ayodi is still unknown.
At the centre of the dispute was a reduction in salaries with KRU claiming they were too broke to afford the previous season’s monthly wage of between Sh100,000 and Sh150,000, and that they could only offer Sh30,000-Sh50,000 which the youngsters agreed to.
However, People Daily has established that the returnees will retain their package begging the question; Where did KRU get the money to bring them back?
Shujaa’s next assignment is the Hong Kong Sevens on April 5 where they will play Fiji, New Zealand and Australia in Pool C.