What you need to know:
- Odundo said they will use Sh18 million to test 50 players the whole season, hence the need for sponsors to come on board.
- "Nakuru and Kakamega counties have two teams each in the Kenya Cup. We want to engage these county governments to help test the players. We shall approach the Nairobi County government to also assist," said Odundo, adding that Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have helped conduct free Covid-19 tests for national Sevens teams.
The 2021 Kenya Cup rugby league season will get underway as scheduled on February 27, despite seven clubs requesting for the postponement for two months.
Making the announcement Monday, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Oduor Gangla disclosed that though he acknowledges concerns raised by the clubs, the league shall proceed as planned.
In a statement signed on February 3 by club chairmen from Homeboyz, Mwamba, Impala, Menengai Oilers, Nakuru, Nondies and Western Bulls, the team cited various reasons for their requests including lack of preparedness and Covid-19 protocols.
However, Western Bulls are not in the Kenya Cup. Gangla said that Kenya must start early preparations for the Rugby Africa Gold Cup that will double up as the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers to be held in July and Tokyo Olympic Games due July 23 to August 8.
Gangla noted that Kenya is also preparing to host the 2021 Under-20 Barthés Trophy, which kicks off in Nairobi from March 26 to April 4.
The Kenya Cup will be staged in two pools.
Pool “A” will have Kabras Sugar, Impala Saracens, Mwamba, Blak Blad, Kenya Harlequin, while KCB highlight Pool “B” that has Homeboyz, Menengai Oilers, Nakuru, Nondescripts.
Varsity sides Strathmore Leos and Masinde Muliro will join either pool after they earned promotion last weekend.
“It’s through the league that we shall be able to pick players hence we just can’t sit back when other countries have started preparations. The league will help us prepare both the sevens and 15s national teams,” said Gangla.
“Some of the clubs’ complaints are genuine, but something has to happen. We shall move on with those who want to play since some of these clubs have other underlying problems,” claimed Gangla. “We won’t put a gun on someone’s head to have them play.”
Gangla noted that based on the prevailing Covid-19 conditions, there will be no relegation or promotion to Kenya Cup in 2022.
Nondies chairman Auka Gecheo said their position not to take part in the league still stands at the moment.
The preparation period was short hence we are not ready,” said Gecheo, adding that they needed at least 10 weeks of preseason training after they stayed away for 10 months.
Rugby was given clearance by the government just before Christmas to resume training for the first time since March when the government stopped all the sporting activities due to Covid-19.
Rugby is among the sports that were deemed high risk for resumption by the Ministry of Health.
“If they want the 15s national team to start training, then let them employ similar ways they used to recall the sevens team,” said Gecho.
Impala Rugby Club chairman Bob Asiyo said that as much as they want to play, the players’ welfare must be paramount.
"We have been out for close to one year. This is a highly contact sport that needs serious preseason training,“ said Asiyo, adding that the Covid-19 requirements are a challenge with clubs required to foot for their players’ Covid-19 testing.
“We couldn’t do much after being cleared before Christmas to resume. We only started training the second week of January,” explained Asiyo.
Mwamba Rugby Club secretary general Humprey Kayange disclosed that most clubs will be unable to comply with Covid-19 protocols especially the testing part.
Earlier, KRU chief executive officer, Thomas Odundo, said even though they are ready to resume, they still faced challenges of player testing and other Covid-19 protocols.
“The Union and clubs don’t have money for testing but we are exploring how we can see clubs overcome these bottlenecks,” said Odundo, adding that unlike football where testing is done once a month, rugby will be required to conduct them twice a month.
Odundo said they will use Sh18 million to test 50 players the whole season, hence the need for sponsors to come on board.
"Nakuru and Kakamega counties have two teams each in the Kenya Cup. We want to engage these county governments to help test the players. We shall approach the Nairobi County government to also assist," said Odundo, adding that Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) have helped conduct free Covid-19 tests for national Sevens teams.