An MVP’s story: The teacher who now shines in rugby

Cheetahs Captain Amos Nyamanya (with ball) gains ground past Lions defense during Kenya Rugby Union Super Series tournament finals on May 25, 2024 at RFUEA ground. Cheetahs won 18-10.
Photo credit: Chris Omollo

What you need to know:

  •  Amos Obae, a father of two, was born on August 29, 1996 and raised in Kisii. He schooled at Itierio Boys High School, Asumbi Teachers College (Homa Bay County) and Kenyatta University (Nairobi).

  •  His younger brother Enock Obae plays rugby too. Enock played for Kenya Harlequin and is currently with Nakuru RFC, like Amos. 

  Amos Obae Nyamanya was named Player of the Tournament at the 2024 Rugby Super Series held between May 4 and May 25. The Nakuru RFC player, who captained Menengai Oilers Cheetahs at the Super Series, made 35 tackles, had 29 carries, won three turnovers and scored one try to collect 92 impact points.

When did you start your rugby journey?
I started playing in 2011 while in high school. I was inspired by my classmates. Rugby players in my school had some privileges. For instance, they were not required to do manual work. After high school, I played for Kisii RFC from 2013 to 2014 and then had a short stint with Catholic Monks rugby team in 2015 before going back to Kisii RFC from 2016 to 2019. I joined Nakuru RFC in 2019, which is where I am now.

At Itierio, I led my team to the nationals as the captain for the first time in 2014. I captained Kisii RFC when we were promoted to the Kenya Cup and was named best player of that season (2016/2017). With Monks, I managed to play for Kenya Under-20 team Chipu and won Masaku Sevens (Division II) in 2015.

Why did you choose rugby over other sports?
I found the game interesting. I have never tried any other sport.

Who is your role model?
I look up to South African national team captain Siya Kolisi, both on and off the pitch. I like his leadership qualities and style of play. Off pitch, I like how he is close to his family and the love he shows them.

How would you describe your rugby journey so far?
It has been progressive and very fulfilling. I have been working hard and I am proud of what I have achieved, but I still want more.

What challenges have you encountered along the way?
Rugby is a contact sport and I have suffered physical injury at various stages of my career. I broke my tibia bone in 2020, came back, played four games and broke it again in 2021. In 2020, I had surgery and spent nine months on the sidelines. In 2021, I had surgery and spent one year and three months away before playing my first game. Fortunately, my insurance covered the hospital bills.

Are there any benefits you have seen from the game? 
It is because of rugby that I received a full four-year scholarship from Nakuru RFC to study at Kenyatta University. I'm currently working at Nakuru Level Five Hospital as a clerical officer with the radiology department.

How do you juggle work and rugby?
I wake up by 5.30am, hit the gym by 7am and then report to work by 8am. In the evening, I leave work at 5pm and start my training by 5.30pm.

So far, which moments would you consider as the best and worst in your rugby career?
My best moment was being selected for the Rugby Super Series and being named Most Valuable Player of the tournament. The cherry on top of all this was a call-up to the national team, Kenya Simbas. My worst moments remain in 2020 and 2021 when I got injured and spent many months out of action.

How did it feel to be voted MVP at this year’s Rugby Super Series? What does it take to become an MVP?
I didn't expect it. It caught me by surprise, but statistics don't lie. I scored the most impact points. Until now I can't tell how it feels. I have been working hard and staying disciplined. I never miss any training sessions.

Handling fame can be tricky. How did you deal with the attention and popularity that came from being named the MVP?
That came with a lot of expectations. Being a top competition, people assume the award came with lots of money, but I received absolutely nothing. I just try to maintain my cool.

Did your parents always support your forays into rugby? What about your spouse?
While in high school, my parents were never for it. At some point, they came to see the deputy principal to ask him to make me stop playing. However the deputy principal was on my side since I was an asset to the school’s rugby team. After I broke my leg no one expected me to return to the field, but with time they had to accept. My wife fully supports me and is always in the stands cheering me on.

How helpful are the courses you studied at Asumbi TTC and Kenyatta University?
I am a teacher by profession, with a certificate from Asumbi TTC, but I have never taught at any school. At Kenyatta University, I studied Business Management. With this background, I find it easy to teach children rugby.

What is your big dream?
I have already received a national team call-up, now I want to go professional and play for more established teams outside the country. That is where my focus is. 

Lastly, what life lessons have you picked from rugby?
I have learned that every good thing takes time. Rugby has helped me to be honest with myself, stay disciplined and maintain a go-getter attitude.