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Kabras reaping dividends of youth recruitment policy in Western

The Kakamega-based side is fast becoming a supply line of talented players to the national set up with many of their young talents featuring for national 7s and 15s sides.

In Summary

•Edwin Achayo, the coach of the Youth and Recruitment Development program, says they are motivated by the desire to see Kabras reign for many years to come

•Apart from talent development, some of the players have benefited from  educational scholarships 

•Kabras RFC have become a crowd puller in Kakamega as many rugby enthusiasts in the region turn up for their matches 

Jone Kubu of Kabras evading Quins defence during the Charity Cup last month
Jone Kubu of Kabras evading Quins defence during the Charity Cup last month

Despite losing 28-27 to Kenya Commercial Bank in the Kenya Cup finals last weekend, Kabras Sugar RFC are a proud side whose youth recruitment strategy continues to unearth gems in the Western Kenya region. 

With their Youth and Recruitment Development program — backed by their sponsor, West Kenya Sugar — the club has been scouting for talented rugby players and signing them into their academy. 

The 3-year old program has thus far benefited 26 players out of whom 13 have graduated to the senior team.  Edwin Achayo, the coach of the program, says they are motivated by the desire to see Kabras remain a force to reckon with in local and international rugby scene for many years to come. 

 "We are looking at the bigger picture and that is why we embraced the culture of sourcing for young players, nurture them and when we see a player deserves to be in first team, we do not hesitate to give the chance," Achayo says. 

Among the alumni of the academy who featured in the loss to KCB include Barry Robinson (21), Valerian Tendwa (22), Eugene Sifuna (22) and Kevin Wekesa (21). 

The youngsters can undoubtedly hold their heads high considering they were part of a team that had been on an unbeaten streak before the final. 

"The club has been supportive to the young talents and the progress from the academy to the first team is determined by you hard-work and commitment to the club’s goal,” Tendwa says. 

Semi Kunatani (R) of Fiji grabs the ball from Daniel Sikuta of Kenya in past rugby Sevens action
Semi Kunatani (R) of Fiji grabs the ball from Daniel Sikuta of Kenya in past rugby Sevens action
Image: FILE

National call-ups 

Tendwa has already represented the country at Under-20 level and has been part of the wider training group of the senior 15s -a-side national squad while Barry is a fully-fledged member of the senior 15's national side. 

On the other hand, Sifuna is among the five players from Kabras Sugar who have been called to the national Sevens team.

Pointing to the career journey of these youngsters, Achayo is convinced Kabras have provided a template for sports as far as youth recruitment and development policy is concerned. 

"We started an ambitious plan of searching and recruiting young players three years ago and we are glad that the initiative is already paying off.  When I see some of the players we took and placed in our academy featuring in our first team and other national teams i feel happy,” he says. 

Achayo adds: "Some of the young but talented players we acquired received education scholarship from our sponsor, West Kenya Sugar Company. They are taking courses of their choice in various higher learning institutions. "

Conveyor belt 

The Kakamega-based side is fast becoming a supply line of talented players to the national set up. Apart from the aforementioned youth, the club is also home to experienced players who have played an integral role in the national Sevens and 15s side. 

Between 2018 and 2021, over 20 players from the Kabras Sugar RFC have featured in the national team’s either 15s or 7s aside.

Most notable include John Kubu, Dan Sikuta, Brian Tanga, Derrick Ashihundu, George Nyambua, Ephraim Oduor, Brian Oduor, Barry Young and Bryceson Adaka.

Adaka is a first team starter, not only for Kabras Sugar but the national 15s side as well.

Sikuta, one of the few notable senior players in the side, lauds the club's inclination towards the youth and is more than happy to mentor them in their journey up the rugby ladder. 

“ I feel happy when I see the club give young talents opportunity to showcase their talent on the pitch and some get invitation to play for the national team. We talk to the young players and advise them accordingly in the team and the good thing is, they are eager to learn from senior players," he says. 

Edwin Esilaba, a member of Kabras' Planning and Development committee, says the mixture of youth and experience bodes well for the future of the former who will be entrusted with taking the club into a new era. 

"Looking at the positives, we have a well-balanced young squad that will dominate the rugby scenes in years to come and through West Kenya’s goodwill we have managed to develop a pool of players who can compete at the highest levels," Esilaba says. 

Fan favourites 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Kabras' home matches had become crowd pullers in Kakamega — a region synonymous with football and rugby.

"Kabras Sugar RFC has made many people to love rugby and it is evident whenever the team is playing.  Kabras is now a home of rugby in Western. If you want good talent you will find it at Kabras den," Esilaba says. 

With the recently imposed Covid-19 restrictions in the Western bloc — including a suspension on sporting activities in the region — Kabras were forced to play most of their Kenya Cup ties at Nandi Bears Club in the neighbouring Nandi County. 

Ahead of the next season, the playing unit and technical bench are currently refreshing themselves as they prepare for another assault at the rugby crown in the country.

Meanwhile, the club's eyes remain wide open in search of the next big thing in rugby.