• Ndeda said the growth of the game in other schools across the country at the expense of Nairobi schools has been fundamental.
• "I know Rombo liked to taunt Lenana but he forgets from the mid-70s to early '80s we used to beat them home and away. It's only when he debuted in 1983 that the tide changed.”—Ndeda
Former national team and Lenana School scrum-half Martin Ndeda cannot believe how terribly the standards of rugby have fallen at Nairobi's giants of the 1980s and '90s, Nairobi and Lenana School.
The diminutive Ndeda, now a telecommunications engineer in Dallas, Texas specialising in Fibre Optic Networks said the abolition of the colt system at the two schools is to blame for the decline.
Ndeda, who was at Lenana between 1982 and 1987 noted: "We had the senior colts (Form Three and Four) and then the junior colts (Form One and Two). Rugby was the sport of choice at both schools and unless a medical condition could prevent one from playing.”
Ndeda said the 'Colt System' helped him and many others develop their game progressively. "I learnt the game the moment I joined Form One and for the next six years I was at the school, my skills kept improving with the help of the coaches,” he added.
Ndeda said the growth of the game in other schools across the country at the expense of Nairobi schools has been fundamental.
"The growth of the game at (non-elitist) schools in areas, where players are more genetically and athletically suited to its demands has increased competition and talent pool significantly,” noted Ndeda.
He debuted for the first team in Form Five in 1986 and bagged the John Andrews Sevens title the same year, beating an inspired Edward Rombo-led Nairobi School side.
Ndeda also played for Kenya Under-17 Sevens team at the World Schoolboy Sevens at Rossyln Park, London in 1988 alongside the likes of Andrew Lopokoiyot and current Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) director Thomas Odundo, Eric Kibe and John Kagagi among other greats.
On the rivalry between the two schools back in the '80s, Ndeda said: "Game against Rift Valley Academy and Nairobi School were tough. I know Rombo liked to taunt Lenana but he forgets from the mid-70s to early '80s, we used to beat them home and away. It's only when he debuted in 1983 that the tide changed.”
Ndeda termed Rombo as the toughest opponent he faced. "Rombo is the most dominant rugby player I have ever known. A multi-talented sportsman and a ruthless finisher. He is definitely a once-in-a-generation type of a player," he observed.
Other players, who stood out in his days include Austin Onyango, Edwin Obuya, Oliver Khabure, Musalia Kihamba, John Moore Ohaga, the late Ken Kanyi and Gordon Anampiu.
Ndeda termed the late David Andersen, Max Muniafu, Rogers Nyende, Peter Giraudo, the late Jimmy Wakhu and the late Absalom Bimbo Mutere as his mentors.
"In my later high school years, the coaches who prepared me for the transition to club rugby were Giraudo and Nyende. My coach at Mean Machine, Mutere, is the one gentleman I can say brought the best rugby out of me. As far as mentorship, the great Jimmy 'JC' Wakhu (the late) took me under his wing from our days in Lenana and taught me what it meant to be and how to perceive the game as a scrum-half," he said.
Upon completing high school, Ndeda joined the University of Nairobi where he was part of the Mean Machine side that won the Kenya Cup titles in 1989 and 1990.
After finishing his degree studies, he had a pact with Gordon Anampiu to play for the same team and they joined Quins in 1994, winning the Kenya Cup title in 1995 and 1996.
At Quins, he later played with future Kenyan coaches Ken Thimba, Edward Kinyany, Paul Odera, Felix Ochieng and Thomas Odundo.
Others were the legendary Sammy Khakame, the Kinuthia brothers Dave and Bobby, Kiki Onyonka, the late Calistous Mutambi and Paul Osimbo.
Ndeda also played for Watembezi Pacesetters, a feeder team for the Kenya Sevens as well as Scorpions and Chairman's XV.
On Kenya Sevens' recent performances, Ndeda said the team showed promise after the first two legs of the World Rugby Series but was critical of their performances in Los Angles and Vancouver, terming them very poor.