One of the most respected names in world sevens rugby, Gordon Tietjens, will be the chief guest at next month’s Safaricom Sevens, organisers announced on Tuesday.
Richard Omwela, the Safaricom Sevens organising committee chairman, said the New Zealand rugby sevens coach will visit the country for the annual tournament to be held at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa grounds from June 4 to 6.
Tietjens has led New Zealand domination of the rugby sevens throughout the 1990s and 2000s grabbing most titles on offer that includes a string of IRB World Sevens series and three Commonwealth Games titles.
He has been the New Zealand sevens coach since 1994 and also represented the All Blacks as a player in the abridged version of the game in 1983.
The 54-year-old has even written a book on the game called “Sevens Mastery.”
Omwela, at the same time, announced that world sevens series regulars Argentina will participate in the Safaricom Sevens together with fellow newcomers Georgia, an emerging force in European rugby.
Defending champions and understandably crowd favourites, Kenya, will enter a full strength team. Other confirmed nations include Morocco, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Uganda.
An added attraction is the inclusion, for the first time, of a New Zealand invitational side, Ponsonby, which Omwela said will likely include some All Blacks world sevens series players
Omwela, who is also the KRU boss, was speaking when he officially launched the 15th edition of the sevens under new sponsors, Safaricom.
The communication company took over from long time sponsors Tusker, with a three-year multimillion shilling contract.
This year’s sponsorship is valued at Sh25 million.
Despite refurbishing building a 1,500 seater stand on the Ngong Road side Omwela said they did not anticipate any increase in capacity at the 58-year-old venue.
“The stands only ensure that there will be more seating space. We will still print between 7,000 to 12,000 tickets and will begin advanced sales soon,” Omwela said.
Ticket prices have shifted upwards with day one entry pegged at Sh300, an increase of Sh100, while day two and day three tickets have been revised by a similar increment to Sh1,000.
Season tickets will be Sh1,700.
However, not much change is expected at this year’s tournament. The Safari Village will be very much part of the annual event with its entertainment attractions.
Organisers have introduced a family seating section at the stands where drinking alcohol and smoking will be prohibited.
Over 600 players and officials will participate in the three-day tournament involving men, women, schools and age –grade competitions.
The union is meanwhile considering a request from IRB to use the Safaricom Sevens as an African qualifier for this year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi. One spot is up for grabs.
African sevens powerhouse South Africa and Kenya already have an automatic qualification to the quadrennial club Games.