7 Lessons From The 7s Show
There is only one way to start this post…‘Most people would consider this illegal…. Since we are the best and you agree with me, right? No need to debate..’
With 6 cup final appearances from 6 tournaments and 3 cup titles, the Menengai cream Homeboyz RFC completed a historical feat at the Christie 7s to be crowned the 2016 National sevens series champions.
No side in the series’ 17 year history has dominated quite like the Djs have this one. Not the great Ulinzi side in the early 2000s, the all conquering Mwamba side of the late 2000s nor the KCB side that went on a 36 game unbeaten run a couple of years back. Has achieved a 100% cup final appearance record.
In the 36 games they played in this year’s extended series, the conglomerate only lost 5 games, to Mwamba, Western Bulls, Impala, Quins and most recently Kabras. What we witnessed this year was domination in every sense of the word.
Apart from the headline grabbers, this year’s series was also one for the history books, we played 6 legs up from the traditional five. We also had a handful of new sides and talents that were real exciting prospects to watch.
Here are some of the things I picked from the series:
1. It was never that close after all
After leg 2, I had sensationally termed this as one of,if not the most competitive sevens series of all time. In hind sight, I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Like most, I didn’t see the Conglomerate turning up the style like they did.
After sending an early warning in Nakuru, the newly crowned champions weren’t as convincing in the next two legs. That was until they hit top gear in the next four legs to demolish everyone and thing that stood in their way, it was how ruthless they were at times that was an an absolute joy to watch.
At times the DJs looked like a national team of sorts, playing against clubs. And indeed they were, in any of the 6 legs they fielded a 12 that boasted of at least 10 Kenya internationals in either code. At the Christie 7s 12 out of 12 had done duty for a national side.
After losing to Quins in the cup final in Mombasa, the two would meet a fortnight later at the same stage in Kisumu, it was an obliteration. They literally bullied that Quins side off the Mambo Leo show grounds.
The only side to have matched the side’s physicality was Kabras in the very last game of the season, the Christie 7s cup final. Before them, KCB had tried in the Nanyuki 7s final, they failed. Both Impala and Quins, employed a ‘soak in and catch them on the quick counter’ tactic in their respective wins. The Bulls and Mwamba wins were down to possession and maybe a bit of luck.
While they have come under criticism for their direct almost brainless mode of play, rugby is all about making the most of what works for you to create mismatches against your opposite number.It might not be easy on the eye, especially if they come up against a side that employs the same tactic (cue in KCB encounter in Nanyuki final). In the end though what matters is the result.
If we were to remove the Homeboyz from the equation, it would have been a real thriller of a series, as below them Quins, Impala, Strathmore, Kabras and KCB were in a very interesting battle. Quins and Impala were separated by 2 points heading into Christie, their battle for second was finally decided in the bronze final, where Quins had the last laugh.
In the end there were only 6 points between KCB (81) and Strathmore (88), with Kabras on 87 points.
2. A six leg series is the real deal.
This year, the series featured 6 legs up from the traditional 5. Initially most were sceptic, sighting that the usual 5 are a stretch to the teams, having 6 legs would wear out both the fan and the player.
Having covered the 6 legs, we could now say 6 legs are not that bad, if managed well, actually it could be a perfect win win for all. Well maybe apart from the dented pockets.
For the teams, 6 legs has and will continue to test their depth, bringing out fresh talent to the fore, players who would have ordinarily not had a chance to play, get a shot at the big stage. In a competition sense, 6 legs give you a bit more room to get back from a slump or a slow start. 5 legs was a bit more bumped up, you snooze you lose, we all deserve a second chance, don’t we?
For the fan, more rugby, more fun. The new destination of Nanyuki gave fans a different experience from the norm, it showed a lot of potential and with the right preparations it just could be the next big thing.
To make the 6 legs bearable we need to have proper breaks between the legs, a back to back to back series is no good, we would need to edit our calendar, that we have a week or two break between a couple of legs.
3. We need to work on the playing surfaces.
One of the down sides from this series has been the playing surfaces, especially in Nanyuki and Dala. It was painful to watch players being stretchered off with dislocated or broken limbs due to the uneven and concrete like surfaces.
The host clubs need to put in extra work on the surfaces if we were to boast of a world class series. As much as the business of hosting a tournament can be tasking especially with stretched budgets, I am sure we could edit a few columns in the budgets to cater for the grounds. The earlier we start, the better for us all.
4. Division II ina wenyewe
Up step the Nondies, after faltering at the Kabeberi 7s, they find themselves relegated to the second division in the next leg the Driftwood 7s. Easy stuff, they should bounce right back up we reckoned, herein then lies the story.
Nondies became the case study for the dissertation topic, ‘Division II ina wenyewe,’ at the Mombasa Sports Club, the once Red Lion could not wiggle out of the spot it had slid into. After losing at the semi finals, Nondies were to play again in the second division at Nanyuki. They however pulled out of the tourney sighting injuries.
The side benefited from the newly formulated ‘host club invitation’ to gain promotion to the first division. It looked like the Red lion was back after the first round of matches at the Christie 7s, having beaten Strathmore convincingly. Before they hit the ‘restore to factory setting’ button and follow this up with losses to the Menengai Oilers and Impala respectively.
The case is however not unique to Nondies, they were just the top flight side that was unfortunate enough to experience the harsh realities of just how the margins in the game have been reduced to.
5. Talent, talent and more young talent.
I can not mention young talent without first mentioning the Menengai Oilers. Barely 3 months old, the young charges stood toe to toe with the big boys. It took Mwamba 2 legs to finally unlock the Oilers jig saw.
The exciting young charges from Nakuru have a real bright future, I can not wait to see what they have in store in the longer version of the game.
Across the teams however there were the likes of Mohammed Omollo of Impala, Vincent Onyala of KCB, Steve Sikuta of Mwamba, Benji Marshall of Nondies, John Ochar of Kisii RFC, Andrew Gathua and Moses Begi of Blak Blad, most of whom were in their first full sevens seasons in their respective clubs, among a host of other real future prospects for this game that was an encouraging sight.
Players who were playing with opponents or team mates almost twice their age and still stood up to be counted. The amount of talent in this country oozes is almost unbelievable. I must also mention the likes of COMRAS and Makueni who had stints in the top flight and also stood up to be counted, putting in some spirited performances.
Also worth noting was a re surging Machine side that was not afraid to kick it up with the big boys, for once in a long while we actually saw some bite in the dog that is Mean Machine.
6. We can’t all play route one rugby.
It was disheartening to see players time and again opt to go for contact in a game that advocates for space, the whole point of sevens rugby is flair and flamboyance.
I miss the days when Kenya played sevens almost the Fiji way, only taking contact when it was absolutely necessary. These days a player my size (for those who have never seen me, just imagine a few kilos and skin light Brian Tanga) run straight into an Andrew Amonde!
We have been distracted by this ‘conte’ mentality, it takes away from the natural flair we have in drones. Admittedly we can’t all be side step lords, but we surely can be more open minded. A team does need a bruiser or two, maybe three, we can’t all be playing the same role. If we do, we just change the beautiful game of sevens to a grid training session.
So this is a challenge to both player and coach, it won’t hurt to try something different. It was a joy to watch the likes of Mohammed Omollo, Brian Tanga, Kevin Keegan weave their magic, now could we please have more?
I know I just mentioned the opposite somewhere up there while referring to the Homeboyz, but hey we can not all be like them. It was exciting to see the Betway Kobs visiting from Uganda at the Christie 7s give us a lesson or two in playing sevens rugby, though in turn, we did hand out a lesson or two in straight running.
7. Why we should all celebrate the Conglomerate
Yes, we are not done with them, this is why we should all celebrate the Homeboyz win and just to pound the point home, the Kabras Kenya cup win.
Most will say that Homeboyz bought their way to the title, same as Kabras did in the Kenya cup last season, well what is wrong with that? Their wins need to be celebrated by all, as they should work as a wake up call to the rest of the clubs, success is not cheap, you have to invest.
Guess what happens when people invest more in the sport, it is the perfect domino effect. More is invested in the players, the levels of competition go up, the quality of players we push up to the national team is better and before you know it, we are living the Japan dream at a RWC. Most important of all though is that player welfare will be adequately catered for across the board.
Now can we raise that glass to the Menengai Cream Homeboyz RFC? Thank you.
We can not end this without talking about the officiating levels now can we. I won’t sit here and claim that they couldn’t have been better, tonnes have been said over the 6 week series, I will not repeat.
One positive though is that the refereeing field used in this series had an average age of 25 years old, yes including Cap hehe. The levels can only get better from here. We should celebrate the likes of Victor Oduor who has been nominated to the refereeing pool of the 2016/17 world sevens series, those are the levels of exposure we need to grow both the game and officiating levels.
In closing, my Dream 7 from the series ;
1. Martin Owila – KCB.
2. Lameck Dunde – Impala.
3. Charles Omondi – Homeboyz.
4. Aluda Beda – Kabras.
5. Brian Tanga – Kabras.
6. Churchill Ooko – Strathmore.
7. Alvin Otieno – Homeboyz.
As always, your comments are very much welcome…your dream 7 too. Meanwhile can somebody tell Moha Jicho Pevu to please investigate what happened to Nakuru RFC, hii mimi siwezi. Tuonane Safari 7s!