Struggling Saints and Patch battle relegation
Following a dismal performance during the Prescott Cup, Nairobi and Saint Mary’s schools found themselves in an unusual position – at the bottom of the table.
In line with tournament rules, the two were supposed to face off in a play-off that would see the loser relegated to the Damu Pevu Shield.
The game was initially scheduled for the same day as the finals, but was postponed to a later date.
Despite the silence from the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) over the new date, Development Manager Malik Ndemi insists one of the teams will be relegated to give way to Laiser Hill, who beat Muhuri Muchiri 48-3 to win the Damu Pevu Shield.
“There were too many games on the initial date set, and we are still trying to find an appropriate alternative. Other teams have fought for their place in the Prescott Cup. Between St Mary’s and Nairobi School, one of the teams will have to bite the bullet and go down,” said Ndemi.
The delay has sparked debate among rugby followers with a general feeling the game may never be played.
The grapevine has it that there are some schools which will never be relegated by KRU from the Prescott Cup, no matter how poorly they perform.
Saints, as they are better known, have won the Prescott Cup a record 10 times, most recently in 2005 when they beat Mang’u in the final.
They also won six titles back to back between 1994 and 1999.
Patch, as Nairobi School is referred to have won it twice, in 2002 and 2007.
The fallen giants alongside Lenana, Mang’u, Strathmore and Rift Valley Academy are considered elite teams of the tournament. They were the first participants before the Cup was expanded to a national platform.
Their slump in recent times has been attributed to the failure in sports development structures at the schools, and the improvement of minnows such as Ofafa Jericho and Kiambu.
Ofafa, who are known for their football prowess, reached the semi finals of the Prescott Cup. They also won the Impala Floodlit Tournament, beating Prescott champions Alliance High School in the final.
As for Nairobi School, the administration has come under fire for giving sports a cold shoulder.
“The administration no longer pays attention to the game despite its rich tradition. We believe things will change following a meeting with the old boys,” said a member of the coaching staff who declined to be named for fear of victimisation.
Players and fans are divided on what action should be taken, as either way it will have a huge impact on the state of affairs in school’s rugby performance.
While relegation may give a chance to other teams to compete at the highest level in the schools’ category, it may also result in the neglect of sport in the affected ones.
Former Nairobi School and Kenya legend Eddie Rombo believes the two should be exempted from relegation, adding the tournament should be expanded to include 30 teams.
“Patch has over 1,000 students who play rugby. A big number ends up playing for clubs, therefore it is wise to retain the school in the highest level of competitive rugby,” said the former Leeds RFC winger.
Should KRU opt for an expansion, both teams may be spared the blushes, as was the case with University of Nairobi’s Mean Machine in the 2011 Kenya Cup.
KRU Chairman Mwangi Muthee expanded the league to a 10-team format to rescue Machine who finished last.
Some rugby enthusiates, however, differ and are of the opinion the teams be relegated to give a chance to other schools to grow.