Johannesburg - Chaos has erupted in Kenyan rugby that threatens to engulf their highly-successful Sevens programme and could end their hopes of qualifying for the Rio Olympics next year.
According to the supersport.com website, with players not having been paid for three months now, an attempt by the South African management members to resolve the impasse has been met with anger from the Kenyan Rugby Union, with officials trying to boot assistant coach Vuyo Zangqa and conditioning coach Graham Bentz from the country without resolving the crisis.
Kenya has been the beacon of African rugby and a shining light on World Rugby’s international Sevens circuit, but internal politics - the same problems that saw former Blitzbok coach Paul Treu sever his relationship with them last year - are now tearing the team apart.
There is currently a breakdown in the structures that have been put in place, with players not able to train properly, little or no support coming from the KRU, high-performance equipment breaking down. But it is the players not being paid that has brought the situation to a breaking point, with the KRU either unwilling, or unable to sort out the mess.
Their reaction to the South African management’s plea for help was to arrive at their training base on Tuesday, hand them plane tickets and tell them to “pack up and go.”
But both Zangqa and Bentz have refused to leave Nairobi, saying they have been appointed until after the Olympics in 2016 and simply want to prepare the team to the best of their ability.
“They want us out instead of focusing on the real issues,” Bentz told Kenya’s The Daily Nation “the players haven’t been paid for three months now. The focus has been on us apparently striking but that isn’t the case. We simply are saying that the players need to be paid what is owed to them. We have no means for us to go to training. We’re committed to making this work, but the players can’t be expected to perform if they are worried about how they will provide for their families.
“Someone can’t just give us air tickets and expect us to leave when we have contracts with the KRU? How do they expect us and the players to train without salaries.”
Part of the problems stem from an agreement in 2011 where the KRU promised to set up a proper gym for the athletes, get them supplements and remunerate the players. None of this has happened as agreed, and with the team needing to win the African qualifier to qualify for the Olympics, things aren’t looking good for the Kenyan team.
Bentz has more than half the team at his house nursing injuries, with the rest not having the funds to train despite holding contracts with the Kenyan Rugby Union.
Zangqa told there was no reason for them to go home, as they wanted to sort the situation out.
“We shall stay in Nairobi and continue working. Flying back to South Africa now would be a waste of money. It is virtually impossible for us to travel until our issues have been resolved.”
Kenya’s Rugby Union has not reacted via statement, but did say two weeks ago at a special general meeting that they were virtually bankrupt.