Rugby fans need their fix, and just want the Kenyan game to return

Kabras Sugar coach Henley Du Plesis reacts during their Kenya Cup match against Impala at Impala Club Sports Club on February 15, 2020. Kabras won 37-26.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Can mighty Kenya Harlequin halt their alarming decline? Have evicted Mwamba found a new ground? And have “journey club” Nondescripts finally settled at a place they will truly call home?
  • There have been some interesting player movements to and from the big clubs that make the new season, the more alluring, when it starts.
  • A bet the players can’t wait for the action to begin. Let the fans get their fix!

A lot has happened in the world of rugby since Covid-19 disrupted play in March before activities resumed in fits and starts.

A historic result was achieved eliciting delighted grins and despairing groans - depending on which side you stood - some players sued the game's authority over head injuries suffered in the past that attracted much thought, and I am here pondering why the “thugs’ game played by gentlemen” is not back on Kenyan fields.

The popular, globe-trotting 10-leg World Rugby Sevens Series was in the end cancelled after six stages while the Six Nations, that was at an advanced stage was deferred until November when England won the crown, becoming the first team to do so despite losing a first game since Wales in 2013.

Unusual tourney surrounding

The fiercely fought Rugby Championship, that features southern hemisphere heavyweights New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and Argentina was truncated to a three-nation affair after South Africa withdrew.

It was held four months later than its traditional dates and in one country — Australia — as opposed to the familiar home and away fixtures.

I will admit, it is in this unusual tourney surroundings that I saw grief.

When New Zealand loses a test match, more so to a team other than South Africa and Australia, the whole world takes notice, while I crawl behind a sofa and cover myself with a blanket.

New Zealand did this to me on November 14 when they lost 25-15 to Argentina! This was the first time in the history of the game that the All Blacks were losing to Los Pumas. In their 29 previous encounters dating back to 1985 the ABs had won all but for one draw.

Just a heads up: The All Blacks are to rugby what Brazil (at least that one of the 1960s, 70s and 80s) is to world football, Eliud Kipchoge is to marathon running and Arsenal, of that “Invincibles” era, is to the current long-suffering club fans: an unstoppable force.

What was particularly galling about this loss, as far as All Blacks die-hards are concerned, was Argentina had not played a Test match in 402 days before the encounter while New Zealand had racked up five internationals against Australia.

Meanwhile, World Rugby (WR), the games global governing body, launched an independent-led governance review. It was aimed at building on the strong foundations of the 2015 review, which brought about wider union representation and gender inclusion on WR’s supreme decision-making body, the Council.  

WR talked about having a governance structure that reflected the universality and diversity of rugby and the society.

The rugby fraternity is indeed diverse.

Last month, nine former professional rugby players filed a lawsuit against WR, Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union over brain injuries.

The aggrieved players include ex-England hooker Steve Thompson, who said he has no recollection of winning the 2003 World Cup, and former Wales back-rower Alix Popham.

The players, represented by Rylands Law, claim they were suffering neurological problems associated with concussions suffered during their playing days.

Rylands said some of the players have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury, early onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). An AFP report indicated that CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma.

Shocking. I shudder to think what the condition of our players, past and present, is! To WR’s credit they have continually made the game safer for players with constant revision of rules and medical protocols.

As far as I can remember, in every Kenya Cup match, it was mandatory to have an ambulance and a trained medical person on stand-by at the venue.

And rugby players are some of the smartest people you would come across, who take their health very seriously, and their game too.

But almost a year since the Kenya sports calendar was stopped by the government, rugby has not been allowed to restart.

Elite club football, with its associated administrative upheavals, was given the go-ahead to resume activities in November. After the initial Covid-19 testing of players the federation has been mum on any subsequent testing.

If rugby was given medical guidelines that would allow the game to resume tomorrow, those protocols would be adhered to, to the letter.

Just a thought: Football was permitted to resume but with no fans permitted in stadiums.

But village football, particularly during the festive period, was attracting mammoth crowds that made a mockery of the Covid-19 social distancing practice.

No disrespect to the football fans, but rugby lovers are more enlightened and you would not see such nonsense in the game.

Let the season begin. Rugger fans are anxious to see if defending champions KCB will win their fourth Kenya Cup in a row and become only the third club after Impala and Nondescripts, to achieve such a feat in the 50-year history of the tournament.

Or will promising also-run Kabras Sugar prevent that piece of history from being written?

Can mighty Kenya Harlequin halt their alarming decline? Have evicted Mwamba found a new ground? And have “journey club” Nondescripts finally settled at a place they will truly call home?

There have been some interesting player movements to and from the big clubs that make the new season, the more alluring, when it starts.

A bet the players can’t wait for the action to begin. Let the fans get their fix!

cnyende@ke.nationmedia.com

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