Spectators at the annual Safari Sevens
View from the north end of the ground
|Location||Ngong Road, Nairobi, Kenya|
|Owner||Shoj, Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA)|
|Operator||Kenya Rugby Football Union (KRFU)|
Expandable to 15,000
|Field size||130×69 m|
|Opened||28 September 1955|
The RFUEA Ground is a rugby union stadium located on the Ngong Road in Nairobi, Kenya. It was purpose built to be the home of the national team and to serve as the headquarters of the Rugby Football Union of Kenya (RFUK). [a] Coincidentally, the RFUEA ground has another parallel with Twickenham Stadium in the United Kingdom in that it also serves as the home ground for the Kenya Harlequin Football Club, just as their sister club the London Harlequins once played at Twickenham.
Rugby union, widely known simply as rugby, is a contact team sport which originated in England in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In its most common form, a game is between two teams of 15 players using an oval-shaped ball on a rectangular field with H-shaped goalposts at each end.
A stadium is a place or venue for (mostly) outdoor sports, concerts, or other events and consists of a field or stage either partly or completely surrounded by a tiered structure designed to allow spectators to stand or sit and view the event.
Nairobi is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. The name comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water", a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. The city proper had a population of 3,138,369 in the 2009 census, while the metropolitan area has a population of 6,547,547. The city is popularly referred to as the Green City in the Sun.
Many internationally renowned teams have played here including the British Lions (1955 & 1962), the Barbarians (1958), the Springboks(1961) and Wales (1964). The 2009 IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy took place on this site (with some games also being played on the neighbouring Impala RFC ground). As the site for one of the largest and most prestigious annual sevens tournaments in Africa, the Safari Sevens, the RFUEA ground has hosted matches between such diverse teams as Samoa, Emerging Springboks, Zimbabwe, British Army, Public School Wanderers, Bristol University and Université de Grenoble.
The British & Irish Lions is a rugby union team selected from players eligible for any of the Home Nations – the national teams of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. The Lions are a Test side and generally select international players, but they can pick uncapped players available to any one of the four unions. The team currently tours every four years, with these rotating among Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The most recent series, the 2017 series against New Zealand, was drawn 1-1.
In 1955 the British Lions rugby union team toured Southern and Eastern Africa. The Lions drew the test series against South Africa, each team winning two of the four matches. They won the first test by a single point and the third by three points and lost the second and fourth matches by wider margins. As well as South Africa, the tour included a match against South West Africa, two games against Rhodesia and one versus East Africa.
In 1962 the British Lions rugby union team toured Southern and Eastern Africa. Overall the tourists played twenty-five matches, winning sixteen, losing five and drawing four.
At an altitude of 1,650 metres (5,410 ft) above sea-level, it is higher than three of the four vaunted stadia of South Africa's highveld; Loftus Versfeld Stadium Pretoria at 1,214 metres (3,983 ft), the Free State Stadium Bloemfontein 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) and Royal Bafokeng Stadium Rustenburg 1,500 metres (4,900 ft). Only Ellis Park in Johannesburg at 1,750 metres (5,740 ft) is higher.
Altitude or height is defined based on the context in which it is used. As a general definition, altitude is a distance measurement, usually in the vertical or "up" direction, between a reference datum and a point or object. The reference datum also often varies according to the context. Although the term altitude is commonly used to mean the height above sea level of a location, in geography the term elevation is often preferred for this usage.
The Highveld is the portion of the South African inland plateau which has an altitude above roughly 1500 m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions to the south-east of the Highveld. It is home to some of the country's most important commercial farming areas, as well as its largest concentration of metropolitan centres, especially the Gauteng conurbation, which accommodates one-third of South Africa's population.
Loftus Versfeld Stadium is a rugby and football stadium situated in the Arcadia suburb of Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. The stadium has a capacity of 51,762 for rugby union and it is occasionally used for football matches.
In the early days of rugby in East Africa, when major games were to be staged and larger than normal crowds were expected, Parklands Sports Club (the then home of Nondescripts RFC) served as the venue. But by 1949 attendance for these events had swelled and other venues had to be rented by the Union to facilitate them. The African Stadium (now Nairobi City Stadium) was most frequently used, though Mitchell Park Stadium (now Jamhuri Park Stadium) was the venue for the match against the Combined (Oxford and Cambridge) Universities touring team of 1951.
Nondescripts Rugby Football Club is a Kenyan rugby club based in Nairobi. The club is the oldest in Kenya, and was founded in 1923 after the splitting of the Nairobi rugby club. The club 1st XV compete in the Kenya Cup, while the 2nd XV compete in the Eric Shirley Shield. At the end of the now defunct Nairobi District Championship, they had the most wins with 19.
Nairobi City Stadium is a multi-purpose stadium in Nairobi, Kenya. It is located east of the city centre. The stadium is owned by the Nairobi City Council.
The Oxford University Rugby Football Club is the rugby union club of the University of Oxford. The club contests The Varsity Match every year against Cambridge University at Twickenham.
It had been apparent to the RFUEA, that renting facilities was not ideal and, in the long term, would cost more money and provide fewer options than would ownership of a dedicated facility. Indeed, the idea that East African rugby should have its own ground and headquarters was first put forward in 1930 and these early plans even went as far as identifying and inspecting a parcel of land in the Westlands area of Nairobi. Records do not indicate why this plan did not ultimately see the light of day.
By the beginning of the 1950s however, the required motivation, determination, expertise and good fortune were in conjunction and the Union was able to construct the stadium, and within ten years, RFUEA had saved enough money that it was able that it was able to begin loaning money to member clubs for the upgrading of their own grounds.
In 1951 the Kenya government granted the union the 10-acre (40,000 m2) plot of bundu (rough ground) adjacent to the Ngong Road. Individuals and clubs donated money and sweepstakes and dances were held by the member clubs in order to raise further funds. Life seats were also sold that entitle the holders to free entry to all rugby union matches at the ground, and a seat in the central section of the main stand, for life. Additionally a 10-year loan of £7500 was obtained from the Rugby Football Union (RFU) after 40 members of the Rugby Patrons Society provided personal guarantees; ten guarantors provided surety for £300 and a further 30 for £100 each which, in 1951 when £300 was equivalent to average annual earnings in the UK, was a considerable statement of support.
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the governing body for rugby union in England. It was founded in 1871, and was the sport's international governing body prior to the formation of what is now known as World Rugby (WR) in 1886. It promotes and runs the sport, organises international matches for the England national team, and educates and trains players and officials.
This loan had been secured by D.M. Goldstein (then President of both the RFUEA and Kenya Harlequins) whilst on leave in the United Kingdom. It was the first loan ever made by the RFU to an overseas union. There is an apocryphal storythat it was paid off in three years by the simple expedient of taking out rain insurance with some London based companies; if more than an inch of rain fell in each year the policies would pay out. Not so much buying insurance as placing a bet, and in betting terms this would be a racing certainty. Unfortunately the story is not true, insurance companies have never been so naïve concerning weather conditions in tropical climes. In fact the loan and its interest was repaid entirely from the annual subscriptions of the members of the Rugby Patrons Society.
Kenya Harlequins, the tenant club, and Impala RFC, on the neighbouring ground, between them paid for the drilling of a bore-hole on the Impala grounds, the water from this well being used to irrigate the pitches on both grounds.
The grading of the ground (carried out primarily by John Webster who donated hours of his time to driving the bulldozer) was carried out towards the end of 1953 but the grass planted for the short rains that year failed. The grass was re-planted in time for the long rains of 1954 and that crop was successful. The next step was to erect the 60 foot (18 m) goal-posts, in order to serve as a visual advertisement that something was happening, and to fence in the ground to prevent damage by livestock and casual pedestrians across the pitch. Bougainvillia shrubs were laid along the fence, four rows of trees were planted on the Eastern side of the ground to act as a windbreak and the car-park was levelled.
The Stadium was designed by John Tanner (Kenya Harlequins and East Africa) and the building works were carried out by a firm belonging to a member of the Rugby Patrons Society at a very reasonable cost. The stadium and the majority of the seating was placed on the western side of the ground such that in the early evening (when matches are normally played in East Africa) the spectators are not looking into the sun. The pavilion was designed for easy expansion; it consisted originally of two changing-rooms, showers, toilets, a small bar, seating for 200 and housing for the family of the custodian/bar-man. Within ten years it had been expanded to include a full-sized bar, committee-room, kitchen, seating for 3000 and a camera-tower/broadcasting-box on the roof of the main stand. In recent years the changing facilities have been further expanded.
On the eastern side of the ground an earthen mound runs along the length of the touch-line and there is a tier of five rows of simple stepped seats constructed from breeze-block material and concrete. This simple form of seating is replicated on the western touch-line and it is above this that the main stadium sits. The pavilion consists of three sections, the northern and southern sections, each approximately 30m wide, are larger than the central life-members' section which is approximately 10m wide. All three of these sections have seven rows of seating on wooden staging and are covered by corrugated asbestos roofing. Either side of the main pavilion are a further six rows of concrete benches which in recent years have been covered with a mabati (corrugated metal) roof.
The first match played at the ground was East Africa versus the British Lions on 28 September 1955. It attracted a gate (with borrowed seating) of 6000 and J.A.E. Siggins, the manager of the Lions, was given the honour of opening the ground in the presence of His Excellency Sir Evelyn Baring, the Governor of Kenya.
In October 2009 the Rugby Patrons Society donated KSh 1.2 million(equal to £10,600 or €11,800 or US$16,000) to the KRFU thus providing 60% of the funds required to sink a borehole in order to ensure that the pitch can be maintained in excellent condition. Then on 29 May 2010, the Safaricom foundation gave KSh13.2 million (equal to £123,000 or €143,000 or US$177,000) to the KRFU for the rehabilitation and expansion of the ground to seat an additional 1,500 people on a brand new terrace on the Ngong Road side of the ground. The Kenya Rugby Football Union plans to purchase an adjacent plot, the Unga grounds, so that the stadium can be expanded to accommodate 20,000 people with state-of-the-art facilities. It is the intention of the Ground Development Committee to create a venue that will enable Kenya to host a major International Rugby Board event in the near future.
Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) is the governing body for rugby union in Kenya. It was founded in 1970 and is affiliated to Rugby Africa and the international governing body World Rugby.
The Safari Sevens is an annual rugby sevens tournament held in Nairobi, Kenya. The Safari Sevens is open to international representative sides, professional and amateur clubs, invitational teams, university and school teams.
The Kenya National Rugby Union team is also known as the Simbas, which is the Swahili word for lion. Kenya competes in the Africa Cup and is ranked thirty-second in the World Rugby Rankings as of July 2019. Kenya is yet to qualify for the Rugby World Cup.
Rugby union in Kenya is a popular sport, in particular due to the success of the Kenya national rugby sevens team in the rugby sevens format, and tournaments such as the Safari Sevens, which has been growing yearly, and now includes numerous international teams.
The Kenya Cup is the top tier club rugby union competition in Kenya organized by the Kenya Rugby Union. For the 2017-2018 season, twelve teams competed in a one off format, breaking away from the traditional home and away format, with the top six qualifying for a knock-out tournament to determine the overall winner. Games are played on Saturday afternoons usually preceded by corresponding fixtures in the Eric Shirley Shield.
The Elgon Cup is contested between the rugby union teams of Kenya and Uganda. The men's and women's teams of these countries each compete annually for their respective cups on a Home-and-Away basis. The competition and the cups are named after Mount Elgon, a mountain on the border of the two countries.
Rugby union in Tanzania is a minor but growing sport.
Established in 1950, The East Africa rugby union team is a multi-national rugby union team drawing players from Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, though the vast majority of these came from Kenya which has traditionally been the strongest rugby playing nation in this part of the world. The team has played against incoming international, representative and club touring sides and it conducted seven tours between 1954 and 1982.
Mwamba Rugby Football Club,, is a Kenyan rugby union club based in Nairobi. The club was founded in 1977 with the aim of promoting rugby union among indigenous Kenyans at a time when the sport of rugby was still de facto a preserve of whites in Kenya.
Impala Saracens is a Kenyan rugby club based at the Impala Club. The club competes in the Kenya Cup as well as the Enterprise Cup. The club is based and trains at their ground on Ngong Road, adjacent to the RFUEA Ground, and also has an association football division.
Kenya Harlequin Football Club, is a Kenyan rugby union club that competes in the Kenya Cup, the top level of Kenyan rugby. The club motto "Nunquam Dormio" is Latin, meaning I never sleep.
The Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA) is an umbrella union for the Kenya Rugby Football Union, Tanzania Rugby Football Union and Uganda Rugby Football Union. It owes its existence to the fact that, prior to independence, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda were either a protectorate or mandate of the British Empire. It now has little to do with the direct administration of the modern game but it continues to exist in order to promote and support the game in the three countries, to facilitate club competition between the three unions and to administer the RFUEA Ground and the East Africa rugby union team.
The Bamburi Super Series was an East African Rugby union competition with eight teams in total, five teams from Kenya two from Uganda and one from Tanzania (Twigas) that is currently defunct. It is closely based on the Super Rugby competition in the southern hemisphere. Games take place at the RFUEA Ground in Nairobi (Kenya), Friedkin Recreation Centre in Arusha (Tanzania) and the Kyadondo Grounds, Kampala (Uganda). Rhinos have won the most titles with four wins, and are the only team to have defended a title when they beat the Cheetahs 25-5 in the 2010 final.
The Eric Shirley Shield is a rugby union tournament in the Kenyan domestic league. It was founded in 1962 as a second tier competition to the Nairobi District Championship
KCB Rugby Club is a rugby union team based in Nairobi, Kenya. It was formed in 1989 after the disbanding of Kenya Breweries RFC when their main sponsor, Kenya Breweries, pulled out. That year they joined the Kenya Cup. Their first match was against Impala RFC whom they beat 96-6. In 1994 the team was relegated to the Eric Shirley Shield, however by 1996 they had regained their position in Kenya's top rugby league. The club now has a 2nd XV team which has performed well, winning the Mwamba Cup, and Eric Shirley Shield several times.
The Enterprise Cup is an annual rugby union competition in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, though the competition frequently has the appearance of being an all-Kenyan affair as the majority of rugby clubs in the African Great Lakes region are based in this one country and frequently clubs in Tanzania and Uganda are unable to take part due to financial constraints. The original cup was donated by sailors from HMS Enterprise, who had toured British East Africa in 1928. The only years in which the competition has not been played is between 1940–1946 due to World War II and in 1987 because an international rugby competition was held on RFUEA Ground as part of the All Africa Games.
The Scorpions RFC is an invitation rugby team in East Africa that was established upon principles that have many parallels with the Barbarian F.C. in terms of values, playing style, selection policy and the lack of a home ground. The team wears black shirts and white shorts and, like the original Barbarians and the French Barbarians, players wear socks of their choice provided that they have played for the team that the socks represent.
First played in 1999,The National Sevens Circuit is an annual series of rugby sevens tournaments run by the Kenya Rugby Union in conjunction with host clubs featuring teams from across the country. Teams compete for the National Sevens Circuit title by accumulating points based on their finishing position in each tournament. The season’s circuit currently comprises 6 tournaments in 6 cities and towns across Kenya.
Kisumu Rugby Football Club is a Kenyan rugby union club based in Kisumu. Also known as Lakeside RFC, for the 2015-16 season the club competes in the Nationwide League.