Kenya Sevens relegated from World Series - what they said

Tony Omondi

Jordan Sepho of France (left) fights for the ball against Tony Omondi of Kenya (right) during their HSBC Rugby Sevens event in Singapore on April 8, 2023.

Photo credit: Roslan Rahman | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Kenya lost 12-7 to Canada in the relegation play-off final during the London Sevens on Sunday.

The Internet is on fire with Kenyans expressing their anger after Kenya Sevens was relegated from the World Rugby Sevens on Sunday.

Shujaa lost to Canada 12-7 in the relegation play-off final at the London Sevens.

It will be the first time in 23 years that Kenya will be missing the World Rugby Sevens Series with no chance of invitation in some events after World Rugby came up with a 12-team format for the 2023/2024 Series.

Kenya Sevens, who earned their first call for the World Rugby Sevens Series in 2000/2001 season before becoming the core team in the 2004/2005 season, will now cool out.

They now must go through the Africa qualifier and the 2024 World Rugby Sevens Challenger to earn promotion to the 2024/2025 Series.

The relegation comes with repercussions since there will be no funding from World Rugby as a core team.  

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) will have to source for funds to have the team tour and play in invitational tournaments so as to maintain some standards.

“This cuts deep,” said former Kenya Sevens skipper and Olympian Humphrey Kayange on his Twitter handle.

Another former Kenya Sevens player, Dennis “Ironman” Mwanja, who is currently with the Kenya Lionesses side in Madagascar, lamented that they (former KRU office) brought down the game of rugby.

“They took away the game from the people who built it with blood, sacrifice and love and it's now gone back to dust!  We didn't expect this to end 19 years ago when we took Kenya to core status,” said Mwanja on his twitter handle.  

Mwanja is the head coach of Kenya Lionesses that are taking part in Women’s Rugby Africa Cup that doi8bles up for the 2025 Rugby World Cup.

Denis Ombachi, who scored the winning try against Zimbabwe that took Kenya Sevens to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, was in shock.

“Somebody tell me I am dreaming, I feel for the boys. Life changing result at the London sevens,” said Ombachi on Twitter.

“We needed that core status for pride but for me it’s the life changing opportunities that comes with it,” said Ombachi, explaining that he would not have been nobody were it not for the World Series.

“You have no idea how many livelihoods feed off the system,” said Ombachi, the online chef, who has 139,100 followers on Twitter.

Another former Kenya Sevens player, Lucas Onyango, who is based in the United Kingdom, said on his Facebook page that Sunday will go down as one of the saddest days in Kenya rugby history.

“Some of us were paid peanuts and expected to win trophies, to a time when Kenya rugby players were paid well because of the people who came before them and pushed for player rights,” said Onyango.

Onyango said lack of foresight leadership from Kenya Rugby Union and the ministry of sport got Kenya Sevens relegated.

“We are obsessed with foreigners leading our teams, but not ready to invest in our local sons who showed they can lead,” said Onyango, explaining that the late Benjamin Ayimba handled Kenya Sevens for the historic 2016 Singapore Sevens victory.

“Seven years ago Benja conquered the sevens and had a blueprint for winning no matter what, “said Onyangp, adding that KRU still sacked him after he demanded for players’ rights.

“Look at Argentina today smashing Fiji, we used to struggle together in the series and a player I played against many times, Santiago Gomez Cora, is coaching them and winning,” said Onyango. “How ironic is it that on Benjamin Ayimba’s second anniversary since he left us we get relegated.”

Argentina beat Fiji 34-14 to win the London Sevens on Sunday.

However, Onyango is happy that the new KRU chairman Sasha Mutai has taken over the reins and can finally sort this madness and put full proof systems that will take Kenya to the great heights.

Former KRU Secretary General Jack Okoth noted that it is nine years since he was fired from KRU. 

“When I left, it was painful because it was a job I was passionate about, Today it is even more excruciating because our team has been relegated from the world series,” said Okoth, who placed the blame squarely on former KRU chairman Oduor Gangla.

 Japan-based Kenyan star Janet ‘Shebesh’ Okello told Nation Sport that it was a tough one to swallow but was optimistic that the team was still young and “I know they will bounce back”.

“The only way to go back is to work hard, play Challenger Series and win it to book the core status ticket,” she noted.

Rugby Afrique Exco member and Chairperson of the newly formed Women’s Rugby Advisory Committee, Paula Lanco #Paula @PaulinaLanco said, “My guys let's be kind, if for nothing else for the sake of those who put their bodies on the line & duly represented Kenya despite the odds.
#RechargeRefocusRebuild #kazikwaKRU+ #istandwithyou.”