Try time...KRU to hold interviews for new Kenya Sevens coach

Kenya's Vincent Onyala (right) evades a tackled from Samoa's Laaloi Leilua as he goes to ground to score a try during the rugby union sevens pool match on the first day of the London 2019 World Rugby Sevens Series event at Twickenham Stadium in London on May 25, 2019.

Photo credit: Ben Stansall | Afp

What you need to know:

  • Fifteen coaches drawn from Kenya, South Africa, Australia and the UK have applied for the hot seat, which fell vacant after New Zealand's Paul Feeney left by mutual consent on June 12
  • The job of Kenya Sevens head coach was advertised in early June where KRU encouraged only Kenyans to apply
  • In an earlier interview current Simbas head coach Paul Odera ruled himself out after a section of the media reported he was the favourite to cross over to Shujaa


Interviews for the position of Kenya Sevens head coach will begin on Friday, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Director of Rugby Thomas Odundo has said.

Fifteen coaches drawn from Kenya, South Africa, Australia and the UK have applied for the hot seat, which fell vacant after New Zealand's Paul Feeney left by mutual consent on June 12. The interviews will be done online.

Feeney had led Shujaa to a 12th-place finish in the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series. The season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic after six legs held in United Arab Emirates, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada.

Kenya collected 35 points in the 15-nation league in which no team was relegated. Japan will be the 16th team next season after finishing on top of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger series.

Ex-Kenya Sevens coach Paul Feeney give instructions during their training session at the RFUEA grounds on February 20,2020 ahead of the fifth and sixth rounds of the 2019/20 World Sevens Series in Los Angeles and Vancouver.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

The job of Kenya Sevens head coach was advertised in early June where KRU encouraged only Kenyans to apply. The union said it was looking for a Kenyan with a minimum of three years experience as a head coach in a division one club or Elite Squad and a minimum World Rugby Level 2 coaching certification in either seven-a-side or fifteen-a-side rugby.

Only three Kenyans applied and the position was re-advertised on June 30 and left open to interested coaches worldwide. By deadline day (July 10), 15 coaches had submitted their applications to the Chief Executive Officer for consideration.

"Re-advertisement  was due to a miscommunication on the initial advertisement. The process of shortlisting and interviewing is ongoing. No interviews have been carried out yet. They could possibly start this week. We had a technical challenge, but plan for this week, by Friday," says Odundo, who is leading the process.

Under Feeney, between September 2019 when he took over and June 2020 when he left, the New Zealand national had guided Shujaa to bag the Africa Men's Sevens crown and a ticket for 2020 Olympic Games which were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kenya Sevens players and officials celebrate with the trophy after beating Uganda 31-0 in the final of the Africa qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the Bosman Stadium, Johannesburg on November 9, 2019.

Photo credit: Rugby Afrique

Feeney was not the first foreign coach that Kenya has had in recent years.
Mike Friday, who is currently handling USA Sevens in the same capacity, had resigned from his Shujaa post after the 2013 World Cup Sevens due to "interference from certain Kenya Rugby Union individuals and insufficient funding". With a fifth-place finish in the 2012/13 World Rugby Sevens Series, Friday remains the only coach to have ever guided Kenya to that historic position.

His successor, South African Paul Treu left in December 2014 citing "unfavourable working conditions within the KRU board." Since Treu left, KRU has hired and fired many local coaches - Felix Ochieng, Benjamin Ayimba, Innocent Simiyu and Paul Murunga - before Feeney arrived.

Ayimba, who guided Kenya to win a leg in the World Rugby Sevens Series for the first time ever, during the 2016 Singapore Sevens, has since joined Kenya Rugby League Federation as Technical Director.

It's highly unlikely he is in the race for the Shujaa head coach job. Kevin Wambua had been tipped to take over from Feeney when KRU first announced it was shopping for a local coach. After making an about-turn to allow foreign nationals to apply for the position, the Mwamba RFC and Shujaa assistant coach looks unlikely to become Feeney's successor.

Kenya Sevens deputy coach Kevin "Bling" Wambua names the final team for the World Rugby Sevens Series in Hamilton and Sydney in Nakuru on January 15, 2020.

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

The list of applicants eyeing the prestigious Kenya Sevens head coach job still remains a KRU secret, but could as well include former Kabras Sugar RFC coaches Henley du Plessis (South Africa) and Mike Bishop (Australia). Rwanda-born Kenyan Dominique Habimana served as the assistant coach to South African Jerome Paarwater in Kenya Simbas (national 15s rugby team) and head coach of Nakuru and Kenya Harlequin clubs.

Both Shujaa and Harlequin are currently in the market for a head coach and he could be on the list of potential replacements for Feeney. A former Shujaa head coach is also believed to be in the mix.

In an earlier interview current Simbas head coach Paul Odera ruled himself out after a section of the media reported he was the favourite to cross over to Shujaa. "Too many rumours. I didn't even apply. France 2023 (Rugby World Cup) is my focus," he said at the time.

Kenya Simbas coach Paul Odera at a match against Zambia on August 24, 2019 during Victoria Cup rugby match at RFUEA ground.



Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

There are no timelines set at the moment for the unveiling of the successful candidate for the Shujaa job, but it is expected to be immediately after the interview process is over. The appointed person, KRU says, will coach the team, on and off the field, to a standard of excellence, demonstrating a significant improvement over each annual period of centralisation, enhancing the reputation of KRU.

"The overall responsibility of the new coach will be coaching the Sevens squad and the management of a performance program to ensure that the selected players are best equipped to compete and perform in the international assignments as defined by the KRU," read the advertisement for the position.