Back like I never left: Innocent Simiyu returns as Kenya Sevens coach

Kenya Sevens players huddle before a past match.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Simiyu first took over the reins at Kenya Sevens from Benjamin Ayimba in October 2016.
  • During the 2017-2018 Sevens World Series, his side finished eighth overall with 104 points after reaching two main cup finals in Canada and Hong Kong and five cup quarterfinals.

After weeks of fierce lobbying, the Kenya Rugby Union has finally handed Innocent Simiyu the baton to coach Kenya Sevens for a second time.

Simiyu, who handled the team in 2016 and 2017, was unveiled on Tuesday morning by Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Oduor Gangla to take over from Paul Feeney from New Zealand, who resigned in April this year.

An impromptu Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Board meeting on Tuesday last week overturned an earlier decision to appoint another former International Dennis "Ironman" Mwanja to the position.

The board had bypassed 'Namcos', who many thought was the most qualified as the Kenya Cup caucus fronted for Mwanja.

Kenya Sevens coach Innocent Simiyu.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Namcos, Mwanja and another former Kenya Sevens coach Paul "Pau" Murunga were the only candidates the board had remained with after the Union's executive committee meeting on Wednesday last week struck out Nick Wakley's application over financial implications.

Mwanja was due to be unveiled on Wednesday last week after the board had settled on the KCB Rugby Sevens team coach the previous week, but pressure mounted from within to either have the decision rescinded or the whole process deferred.

Even after settling for Namcos, another challenge came when the former Impala Rugby Club and Kenya Harlequin centre, picked on Will Webster as his deputy.

Webster is currently with the Hong Kong Sevens team hence the Union was unable to meet his financial obligations, having sidelined Wakley because of finances.

Ex- Kenya Sevens coach Innocent Simiyu (left) and his Lionesses counterpart Kevin Wambua enjoy a light moment after naming their teams for Hong Kong, Singapore and Commonwealth Games on March 28, 2018 at the RFUEA grounds.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The 37-year-old Namcos captained Kenya Sevens team between 2006 and 2008 and the Kenyan 15s side in 2008 to 2011. In the World Rugby Sevens Series, Simiyu played in 121 matches scoring 321 points.

He was appointed as head coach of the Kenya Sevens on October 17, 2016 on a two year contract and replacing Benjamin Ayimba.

Simiyu would propel the team to two finals at the 2017/2018 World Sevens Series leg in Vancouver and Hong Kong.

But it’s at the 2018 Paris Sevens where things went awry when players protested by concealing a sponsor's logo after the Union diverted their cash rewarded to them by a sponsor from some advertisement.

After an investigation, Simiyu opted to take the blame for what happened rather than report certain players for reprimand.

Simiyu comes from a rugby playing family where his brothers Victor Sudi and Nato Simiyu played for both Kenya Sevens and Kenya 15s Simba teams. Sudi is currently at Kenya Harlequin technical bench while Nato plays for Impala.