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Kenya 7s stars boycott training in protest over reduced salaries

Tuesday January 8 2019

Kenya Sevens' Leonard Mugaisi (right) is chased by England's Dan Norton as he runs with the ball to score a try on the first day of the Rugby Sevens tournament on December 8, 2018 at Cape Town Stadium in South Africa. PHOTO | RODGER BOSCH |

Kenya Sevens' Leonard Mugaisi (right) is chased by England's Dan Norton as he runs with the ball to score a try on the first day of the Rugby Sevens tournament on December 8, 2018 at Cape Town Stadium in South Africa. PHOTO | RODGER BOSCH |  AFP

AYUMBA AYODI
By AYUMBA AYODI
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Trouble is brewing in Kenya Sevens camp after close to 16 senior players continued boycotting training in protest over reduced salaries.

The team is expected to leave on January 19 for the next legs of the 2018/2019 World Rugby Sevens Series in New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand city of Hamilton will host the next leg of World Rugby Sevens Series from January 26 to 27 before teams head to Sydney in Australia from February 2 to 3.

Kenya Sevens head coach Paul “Pau” Murunga on Monday warned that the senior players may not make the team for the two legs even if they are to resume training owing to fitness issues.

After Dubai (November 30 to December 1) and Cape Town (December 8-9) legs of the Series, the team only broke camp for Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Sources within the team disclosed that the senior players, who used to earn between Sh170,000 and Sh145,000 last season, want the union to uphold the same structure for the 2018/2018 season.

Kenya Rugby Union (KRU), which is experiencing financial crisis, has adopted a lower salary structure where senior players are now supposed to earn Sh100,000 and below.

When contacted for comment, KRU’s acting CEO Sylvia Kamau declined to give a statement on the players’ strike, saying it would jeopardise negotiations that are going on.

“We don’t can’t give salaries and big promises that we won’t meet but at the same time, we still want these players. It’s a catch-22 situation for us,” said Kamau.

Kamau, who declined to disclose details of the new salary structure, said should negotiations stall, the federation would make do with a new crop of players.

“We will have no otherwise but to select new players since we don’t have sponsors to sustain big pay,” Kamau said yesterday.
Former Kenya Sevens skipper Andrew Amonde, William “Lomu” Ambaka, Samuel Oliech, Nelson Oyoo and Collins Injera, who were with Kenya Simbas in their failed 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying campaign in Repechage held in France, have not reported to training.

“The players have also stayed away after the Union failed to pay them their salaries and match allowances from Repechage,” the source, who preferred anonymity for fear of reprisal, added.

Kenya Sevens skipper Eden Agero, Dennis Ombachi and Jeff Oluoch, who were part of the Dubai and Cape Town campaigns, have also not trained with the team since then. The players had accepted the new salary scheme, only to turn it down after Dubai and Cape Town.

Billy Odhiambo trained with the team briefly but later opted to stay out altogether alongside former Kenya Sevens skipper Oscar Ayodi who was nursing an injury sustained during the local series, Oscar Ouma.

Also out of training is Augustine Lugonzo, Brian Tanga, Dan Sikuta and Leonard Mugaisi who was in Dubai and Cape Town, and Arthur Owira, who sustained a nasty injury during the Commonwealth Games in April.

A source at the federation said that under the revised pay structure, senior players were meant to get Sh100,000 and below in addition to performance bonuses.

Each player is entitled to get Sh100,000 for a leg in the Series and Sh50,00 for reaching the final. For third place finish, the players were meant to draw Sh40,000, while they are entitled to Sh35,000 for finishing fourth and Sh30,000 fifth.

The players were to get Sh20,000 for reaching Cup quarterfinals.

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