Safari Sevens

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Safari Sevens
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Safari Sevens
Sport Rugby Sevens
Founded1996
Inaugural season1996
MottoAfrica's Premier Rugby Sevens Tournament
Country Kenya
Venue(s) RFUEA Ground, Nairobi, Kenya
Most recent
champion(s)
Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya
Most titlesFlag of Kenya.svg  Kenya (9)
QualificationBy application and invitation.
Official website http://safarisevens.com/

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.

Contents

Initially held at the RFUEA Ground, home of the Kenya Rugby Union, the tournament was moved to the Nyayo National Stadium in 2010 and 2011 and then held in the 60,000 seat Moi International Sports Centre from 2012 through 2017. Due to declining spectators and sponsor interest, the event was moved back to the RFUEA in 2018.

History

Since the earliest days, rugby in Kenya had relied on a regular influx of foreign touring sides in order to test the mettle of the local teams and to provide opposition for the representative sides such as the Scorpions RFC and East Africa. The coming of professionalism to rugby in the 1990s all but dried up these tours and it was decided that a means had to be found of re-initiating the influx if the quality of rugby in the country was not to stagnate.

The Rugby Patrons Society decided to put in place a seven-a-side tournament and invite a number of foreign national and club teams to participate. Robin Cahill (a founder member of the society and the man whose brainchild the tournament is) led a team of Patrons to run all the early competitions and oversee its integration into the Kenya Rugby Union's calendar. The trophy, a bronze of two elephants, is named in his memory.

The Inaugural Tournament 1996

The inaugural tournament took place in 1996, Public School Wanderers, who had supported Kenyan rugby for many years, brought a strong squad as did the Welsh Exiles (a team managed by the Welsh Rugby Union to nurture Wales qualified players living outside of the Principality) captained by future Welsh International captain, Colin Charvis. The tournament also included several international teams (Arabian Gulf, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe) as well as Selkirk RFC and a Cumbria Schoolboys team. The chairman of the referees was the famous English referee Ed Morrison and he took charge of the final between the Public School Wanderers and Zimbabwe. Chester Williams was there as guest of honor and to present the trophies to the winners which included Kenya (who beat Uganda 38-12 in the Plate final) and Cumbria Schoolboys who defeated Shujaa 29-10 in the Bowl Final.

Expansion and Growth 1997-2007

In 1999 the then Kenya Rugby Football Union , now the Kenya Rugby Union, applied and won the right to host the Africa Zone Qualifying Tournament for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens Finals. This qualification competition was combined with the 2000 tournament to make it into a longer 3 day festival of rugby rather than cancel the Safari Sevens. The Kenya sevens side did not therefore take part in the Safari Sevens; Shujaa the Kenya 'A' side carried the hopes of the home crowd and did not disappoint, winning the cup. In the World Cup Qualifying tournament Kenya, captained by Sammy Khakame, [1] defeated Swaziland and then Madagascar at the beginning of day two and then Namibia in the semi-finals on day three, thus qualifying to go to Argentina the next year as there were two slots open to the African Zone. Zimbabwe defeated Kenya in the final. [2]

The tournament would grow in stature with a large increase in crowds numbers. In 2004 the first women's team played in the tournament. [3]

In 2005 Fijian rugby great, Waisale Serevi played for Kenya A (Shujaa) as a guest player. [4]

Since then the tournament attracted the likes of London Irish, Emerging Springboks, Fiji, Japan, Western Province, Argentina, Golden Lions, Belgium Barbarians. [5] [6]

The tournament has attracted a variety of international rugby players and coaches including Naas Botha in 1999, Waisale Serevi and Gordon Tietjens. [7]

Consolidation 2008-2009

A Bristol University Select player scores a try at the 2008 Safari Sevens, at the RFUEA Ground Safarisevens diving try.jpg
A Bristol University Select player scores a try at the 2008 Safari Sevens, at the RFUEA Ground

The 13th edition of the Safari Sevens saw a rise in the gate fee of KSh200 per person to KSh800, in addition the weather was colder than usual but this did not produce any reduction in the crowds. [8] The spectators included Kenyan Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi (who presented the prizes) and former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, as well as various other celebrities from the world of Kenyan show business ensuring a constant flow of Hummers, Jaguars and Range Rovers into and out of the car park.

The Fiji Barbarians made their debut at the Safari Sevens in 2008. National teams taking part were Botswana, Emerging Springboks, France A (Les Blues), Japan, Namibia, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya. In addition Samurai Sevens (a professional rugby invitation side) and the Kenya A sevens team (Shujaa) and University of Paris also took part. Bristol University Select (a team put together from Bristol University, Clifton RFC and the professional Guinness Premiership side Bristol) [9] returned to take part in the Safari Sevens yet again; they have participated in every Safari Sevens ever staged.

Kenya won the competition beating the Emerging Boks in the final, 3112. The continued increase in the number of people attending the event and this year's rise in admission caused many critics[ who? ] called for an upgrade in the quantity and quality of seating available for spectators.

Nine nations took part in the 2009 event; Botswana, Japan, Kenya (who finished sixth in the IRB Sevens World Series this year), Morocco, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Other foreign teams included the perennial Bristol University Select from the UK, Hamilton Raiders RFC from South Africa, Les Bleus Sevens from France, and Western Province schoolboys. There was also a Kenyan invitation side the Chairman’s Select. Other local entrants included various Kenya club veterans sides, ladies and schools teams.

Kenya Harlequins won the veterans competition beating a Rift Valley Academy Veterans 175, Western Province took the schools title with a 190 win over Nyanza, while Mwamba RFC I won the ladies title with a 540 win over Vivi.

The refereeing cadre included the IRB elite referees Wayne Barnes and David Rose of England. [10] [11]

2010-2012

The tournament, under title sponsorship from Kenyan mobile telephony giant Safaricom, became known as the Safaricom Sevens, was hosted for the last time at the RFUEA Ground in 2010,shifting to the 35,000 seater Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi for the 2011 and 2012 edition. The rationale for the venue shift was the exponential rise in crowd numbers, and the RFUEA's inability to host such crowds.

Former World Rugby Sevens Series champions Samoa returned for the 2011 edition, winning the tournament for a second time with a 31-12 win over Samurai Sevens. South Africa Sevens Elite Player Development (EPD) squad which featured Justin Geguld who would later play on the HSBC Sevens World Series won the last tournament to be played at Nyayo, defeating the Kenya Morans coached by Mike Friday 21-17.

2013-2014

When the Kenya Rugby Union revealed that the 2013 tournament would be held at the 60,000 seater Safaricom Stadium located at the Moi International Sports Centre in Kasarani, located in the Northern Suburbs of Nairobi, this announcement was met with skepticism by a section of "rugby diehards" for myriad reasons including the distance of the grandstands to the playing field amongst other factors.

This mattered little as a massive marketing and publicity campaign fronted by title sponsors Safaricom drew in crowds to the Kasarani venue. It is estimated there were an approximate 48000 fans in the stadium on 21 September 2013, the first day of the tournament which featured quality sides in the form of the England Royals and Sevens World Series core sides Spain and Portugal. As the tournament proceeded, news filtered in about a terrorist attack at the Westgate Mall , located several kilometers away. The England Royals, featuring leading England Sevens player Matt Turner, withdrew from the tournament.

This did not put a damper on the tournament as slightly over 20000 fans turned up to watch the final day of the tournament. Kenya Shujaa would beat the Australia Renegades 40-7 to claim the Robin Cahill Trophy , a win that they dedicated to the 67 lives lost at Westgate. Welsh Warriors defeated Argentina 24-17 to win the 2014 edition.

Tournament Decline 2015-2016

The tournament very nearly didn't take place in 2015 owing to governance issues at the Kenya Rugby Union which led to the then title sponsors Safaricom pulling out. It did eventually take place to poor numbers at a venue that just a year earlier had attracted over 70000 fans over two days. Poor attendance returned to haunt the tournament in 2016 and it is envisaged that the Kenya Rugby Union and its partners will work to woo the fans back to the tournament either via a venue change or a deliberate and aggressive marketing campaign while attracting quality international sides and introducing prize money to the event that was once billed as "Africa's Premier Rugby Sevens Event."

Tournament Postponement 2017

The Safari Sevens was postponed in 2017 due to "uncertainty in the prevailing political climate" according to the KRU. Kenya held 2017 Kenyan general election in August 2017 of which the results were disputed.

Tournament Comeback 2018-2019

The tournament was reinstated in 2018 at the RFUEA Ground. The 2019 edition of the tournament, with the title sponsorship of Tusker of East African Breweries, attracted the participation of the South Africa Blitzboks, one of the premier sevens teams in the World Rugby Sevens Series, in addition to national teams from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, and Burundi, and club teams Samurai Select, Western Province (South Africa), Russia Academy, Seventise (France), Blue Bulls (Wales), and Narvskaya Zastava (Russia).

The Kenya Morans beat the Bliztboks 19-14 in a thrilling final.

Table of Previous Winners

A list of results for all tournaments. [12] [13] [14]

YearVenueCupPlateBowlShield
WinnerFinal ScoreRunner-upWinnerWinnerWinner
1996 RFUEA Ground Public School Wanderers (U.K.)40-14Flag of Zimbabwe.svg
Zimbabwe
Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
Cumbria Schoolboys
1997 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
24-21Cumbria School Boys (U.K.) Public School Wanderers (U.K.)Flag of Uganda.svg
Uganda
1998 RFUEA Ground Bristol University Select (U.K.)33-7 Samurai International Lusaka RFC (Zambia)Flag of Zimbabwe.svg
Zimbabwe
1999 RFUEA Ground Public School Wanderers (U.K.)25-22Bristol University Select (U.K.)Flag of Uganda.svg
Uganda
Kenya Harlequins
2000 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Shujaa (Kenya A)
[a]
26-24Bristol University Select (U.K.) London Scottish (U.K.)
2001 RFUEA Ground British Army 45-26Bristol University Select (U.K.)
2002 RFUEA Ground British Army 40-7Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
London Irish (U.K.) Ulinzi Stars RFC (Kenya) Uganda Kobs RFC (Uganda)
2003 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
29-7Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
Flag of Zambia.svg
Zambia
London Irish (U.K.) Lagos RFC, Nigeria
2004 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
10-7Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
Golden Lions (S.A.)Flag of Kenya.svg
Shujaa (Kenya A)
Kenya Commercial Bank RFC
2005 RFUEA Ground Flag of Samoa.svg
Samoa
50-5 Western Province (S.A.)Flag of Zimbabwe.svg
Zimbabwe
Flag of Tanzania.svg
Tanzania
2006 RFUEA Ground Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
26-22Flag of Zimbabwe.svg
Zimbabwe
Flag of Uganda.svg
Uganda
Flag of Kenya.svg
Shujaa (Kenya A)
Flag of Botswana.svg
Botswana
2007 RFUEA Ground Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
27-17Flag of Zimbabwe.svg
Zimbabwe
Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
Flag of Tunisia.svg
Tunisia
Flag of Zambia.svg
Zambia
2008 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
31-12Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
Bristol University Select (U.K.)Flag of Japan.svg
Japan
Flag of Zambia.svg
Zambia
2009 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
40-19Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
Hamilton Raiders RFC (S.A.)Bristol University Select (U.K.)Flag of Japan.svg
Japan
2010 RFUEA Ground Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
17-12Flag of South Africa.svg
Emerging Springboks
Ponsonby RFC (N.Z.)Flag of Argentina.svg
Argentina
Hamilton Raiders RFC (S.A.)
2011 Nyayo National Stadium Flag of Samoa.svg
Samoa
31-12Samurai SevensAuckland Vikings (N.Z.)(Tackling Cancer) Tiger Rugby (USA)Flag of Uganda.svg
Uganda
2012 Nyayo National Stadium Flag of South Africa.svg
South Africa Elite Programme Development
21-17Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
Samurai InternationalWestern ProvinceFlag of Zambia.svg
Zambia
2013 Moi International Sports Centre Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
40-7Australia RenegadesSamurai SevensGrenobleKCB RFC
2014 Moi International Sports Centre Welsh Warriors24-17Flag of Argentina.svg
Argentina
Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
Flag of Germany.svg
Germany
Golden Lions
2015 Moi International Sports Centre Samurai International20-19Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
England SaxonsKenya MoransFlag of Zambia.svg
Zambia
2016 Moi International Sports Centre Flag of Kenya.svg
Kenya
38-21Samurai InternationalCape Warriors Homeboyz
2017 Event Not HeldNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
2018 RFUEA Ground Samurai International
2019 RFUEA Ground Kenya Morans19-14South Africa BlitzboksKenya ShujaaSeventise FranceWestern Province

Notes

a. ^ In 2000 Kenya won the right to host the Africa Zone Qualifying Tournament for the 2001 Rugby World Cup Sevens Finals. Rather than cancel the Safari Sevens they combined both events into a three-day festival. The Kenya sevens side did not therefore take part in the Safari Sevens; Shujaa the Kenya 'A' side carried the hopes of the home crowd and did not disappoint, winning the cup.

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References

Coordinates: 1°18′05″S36°46′18″E / 1.301499°S 36.771684°E / -1.301499; 36.771684