Mike Friday: Inside Kenya Sevens: Dubai, South Africa & Christmas

Mike Friday: Inside Kenya Sevens: Dubai, South Africa & Christmas

Mixed emotions from the last two weeks away as Kenya 7s made positive strides forward in our quest of consistency in performance. After a fierce 10 day training camp, prior to Dubai the strongest 12 was selected that were available meaning that young playmaker Michael Wanjala had to remain at home due to study issues, causing a crisis at half back with the other half back options all currently injured. We all accept that injuries are part and parcel to the game but for a coach to not have a fully fit player available to select is very frustrating. We entered the Dubai tournament with a new kit sponsor in Samurai and an eye catching kit which typifies the squad with the Kenyan flag worn for all to see on the arm!!. The boys impressed and worked hard to gain qualification to the Cup competition and I continue to find out more about the players and squad as they grow more disciplined and gain better understanding of the framework and decisions that need to be made within the framework.

Mixed emotions from the last two weeks away as Kenya 7s made positive strides forward in our quest of consistency in performance. After a fierce 10 day training camp, prior to Dubai the strongest 12 was selected that were available meaning that young playmaker Michael Wanjala had to remain at home due to study issues, causing a crisis at half back with the other half back options all currently injured. We all accept that injuries are part and parcel to the game but for a coach to not have a fully fit player available to select is very frustrating.

We entered the Dubai tournament with a new kit sponsor in Samurai and an eye catching kit which typifies the squad with the Kenyan flag worn for all to see on the arm!!. The boys impressed and worked hard to gain qualification to the Cup competition and I continue to find out more about the players and squad as they grow more disciplined and gain better understanding of the framework and decisions that need to be made within the framework.

We also had to contend with the strict referee adherence to the contact tackle area on supporting body weight reloading and entry. The boys continue to evolve and improve on their core skills which are fundamental and can never be taken for granted coupled with the continuing evolution of their conditioning.
The boys are great athletes look a million dollars aesthetically but are still so young in training age and their training volumes gave significant room for improvement which is very exciting as they have with their natural frames and athleticism come so far.

How far we have come was illustrated to me in the Canada quarter final. Canada had been the form team from day 1 and yet we continually held them out by our disciplined defence in the first half and then we were clinically put them away in the second half with ball in hand. Our most complete performance yet.

However we then saw the fragile part of our team and an area we will focus on improving as we failed to play to our potential against New Zealand in the semi final and as I bluntly said to the boys afterwards they played the shirt not the men that wore them and was a very disappointing display..

We are a developing squad and will learn a great deal psychologically about ourselves from that game as I help to make the boys become more self aware with the mental part of the game, sometimes overlooked or trivialised but such a major influence on performance. We did bounce back to secure 3rd place with a comprehensive performance over France but not without a price as my only fit scrum half Sydney Ashioya was injured to add to my woes as I already knew I had to send back 3 key players in Collins Injera, Oscar Ouma and Biko Adema again due to exams which could with appropriate planning have been managed.

Not to take anything away from the 3 young players who were joining the squad as a developing nation to compete against the so called rugby super powers you need all our fit players to be available to select from, to stand a chance of achieving Consistency In Performance.

You want any player to have earned his right in a competitive training environment to get selected not due to non rugby administration and I have said injuries are part of the game that as a coach you have to cope with, but this is an element that needs to change and evolve if KRU want to move into a more professional off pitch environment.

As a result we moved on to South Africa with 3 scrum halves injured, Wanjala still unavailable and my now my other scrum half option Collins Injera also unavailable, which called for drastic measures of a crash course in scrum half play for back row Philip Wamae and Winger Oscar Ayodi. Both took everything in their stride and embraced the challenge fully as we refocused and integrated the new boys.

We were blessed to also welcome for the first time this season Humphrey Kayange, a late replacement for injured Sydney, who would play his 50th tournament. We knew with Humphrey he wasn’t where he needed to be in conditioning as he was never due to be available until February 2013, but he answered the late call to join up with the squad 3 days prior and had to learn and adjust quickly.

Humphrey being Humphrey he took it in his stride but he now realises the conditioning bar with Kenya 7s has significantly risen and that he needs to unleash his footballing talent and flair within the team framework and not in isolation. We are hopeful that from now on in Humphrey will be able to participate fully in the programme whilst completing his studies in Bristol.

I have to be honest I thought we were home and dry into the Qtr Finals after winning our opening two games which will all that had gone on was my target for the squad. We were looking convincing in attack but showing defensive inefficiencies that allowed both Argentina and Spain to score tries that would ultimately hurt us. So it was Argentina upset the form book with Wales switching off for 2 minutes to allow Argentina to secure that win, throwing the group wide open again. With ourselves then switching off against Wales for 3 minutes defensively and being put to the sword by Wales clinically meant all three teams all finishing with 2 wins in the group and ourselves missing out on points difference.

Upon reflection you get what you deserve and we didn’t defend with the same trust, accuracy, intensity and physicality in South Africa as we did in Dubai and that cost us a place in the Cup Quarter Final. The series is an unforgiving place and individual errors are punished and weaknesses exploited and they are valuable lessons that the inexperienced squad will have to take on the chin.

So as we head into Christmas we are sat at the right end of the series table in amongst the big boys but with plenty to do and plenty we can improve upon. The boys returned home for 4 days off resuming their intensive early morning conditioning sessions for 7 days before Christmas week before resuming again on January 3rd . as we start to build towards Wellington. I will continue to work in trying to guide and assist in ensuring that all players who are fit to play can be available for selection as this is key to Kenya 7s building a competitive talent pool of players and Consistency In Performance.

Cheers

Geezer