Is Ayimba the right man to lead Kenya 7s rugby team to 2016 Olympics?
Benjamin Ayimba is back at the helm of the national sevens rugby team. The Kenya Rugby Union on Friday confirmed Ayimba’s appointment as the head Coach of the Kenya Sevens team taking over from Felix Ochieng who handled the team during the 2014/15 season.
The former Impala, Nondies and Cornish Pirates backrow returns to coach the side for a second stint, having handled the team between 2006 and 2011.
During that first stint, Ayimba led the side to their first ever World Series cup final at Adelaide in 2009, as well as to the semifinal of the 2009 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai.
The former national sevens team’s first task will be to prepare the team for the upcoming Safari Sevens as well as the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers on November 14/15 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
However, Ayimba’s track record notwithstanding, the big question is whether he is the right man to lead the national team to the Rio Olympic Games next year; and will he be able to work us up the World Rugby ranking?
Analysts have quickly criticized the decision by KRU president Richard Omwela to hand back the team to his longtime friend. Ayimba was Kenya 7s coach during Omwela’s previous regime.
First, there is the thorny issue of Ayimba together with another former coach Charles Cardovillis heavily criticizing the team skipper Andrew Amonde on a TV show. Will Ayimba still maintain Amonde as the captain? Will Amonde be free to work under Ayimba?
Perhaps Ayimba might decide to axe Amonde. How will this decision be received well by the rest of the squad? Truth is we’re starring at a rebellion if Amonde is booted out of the team, and a frosty working relationship if he’s retained in the set up.
AYIMBA’S PREFERRED PLAYERS
Second, they were murmurs that Ayimba had his own band of players that he preferred working with during his stint. Majority of those players have been shunted aside either by age or form.
So, will he be willing to work with the 28 players chosen by national selectors panel? Or will he try to assert his authority by dropping a few and calling up his preferred players?
The third question, is after being relieved of his duties, Ayimba kept on criticizing the team, KRU leadership and some players on social media. How comfortable will he be dealing with the same people he bitterly criticized?
Finally, Omwela was reelected to KRU in March to help move Kenya rugby forward. In the last few months, he’s had moments of indecision and he looks as if he is being held hostage by some powerful forces.
This appointment did not go well with a section of the KRU board with the meeting reportedly turning chaotic.
Is Ayimba the way forward for the game in the country? Definitely nope. Ayimba is proving a divisive figure both on and off the pitch.
We can only hope and pray that the team safely navigates the tricky qualifiers in South Africa and make it to the Olympics in Rio next year. A tall order indeed amidst this politics and chaos in the Union.