Rugby in Kenya is becoming a religion owing to the immense following in recent years. What accounts for this phenomenal growth?
As you well know, Kenya is a sporting nation. In the past we have concentrated more on football and athletics. We have excelled in athletics for years. We have had mixed fortunes in football whereas athletic is more of an individual sport in which one receives a personal accolade. Currently, only rugby can be termed as a true team sport. Kenya’s love for team sport can be seen in the large following whenever the national team is playing. Many do not even know the rules of the game, but their passion for rugby grows by the day.
You are among the most successful rugby players in Kenya. How did you get into the game?
This was largely by default rather than design. I had just joined Form One in Vihiga High School in 2001 and as is the norm, each newcomer had to choose the game he wanted to be involved in. Nearly everybody chose football. However, there was an alternative sport called rugby. Nobody seemed interested in it. Only the senior boys played it. I decided to give it a try. I was surprised to be included in the school team though I had no experience in the game. I was the only Form One in the team. My potential was quickly noticed when I beat the then star player to the ball, sending him sprawling the wrong way a few times. I was in the team that represented the school up to the provincial level a few times.
After completing school in 2004, I came to Nairobi and joined Ulinzi Rugby Club. After it was disbanded, I joined my present club Mwamba FC in 2007. It is one of the clubs taking part in the now popular Safaricom Seven series.
Of course, I got a lot of inspiration from my older brother Humphrey Kayange who was already in the game. Together, we were recipients of the presidential Order of the Golden Warrior (OGW) in 2010.
Your generation of players carries the hopes and inspirations of an entire nation during international competitions. How do you handle the pressure?
I think players manifest such pressure in different ways. For many, the pressure comes when one is playing. In contrast, I feel the pressure of a game off the pitch than on it. I guess that helps me to play with little distraction.
What has been your most memorable game?
Well, well, uuh…any game produces memorable results for me regardless of the final score. However, beating New Zealand on home ground during this year’s IRB series in Wellington, was a moment to cherish. You see, rugby is regarded as the national sport for New Zealand. Their team is almost unbeatable. But beat we them. That was sweet.
What is the future of the game in the country?
Rugby has a bright future. Just look at what is happening now; counties are coming up with competitions. Recently, Masaku Sevens created quite a buzz. Very soon, we will be having a rugby team in every corner of the country just like we have football teams all over. But for this to happen, we must invest in young people. We should be thinking of rugby academies. In Australia, for instance, every club has a youth development project. The game should also be inculcated in school curriculum. We ought to be thinking of who will take the mantle from the current crop of players who will not be on the scene forever.
But many of our young people think your success is instant, spontaneous…
I wish that were the case. A successful rugby player must be willing to work hard and make sacrifices. Nothing comes on a silver platter. Our young people must be determined and disciplined. Sometimes rugby has been portrayed as a carefree game that is fun all the time. This is not the case. We are trying to mentor young, upcoming players, helping them align their talent with their social life by avoiding extreme lifestyles.
Are you satisfied with the way the game is being managed in the country?
I can say the union is trying a lot to improve the game. However, much remains to be done. For example, there is a need to get more sponsors on board to give more upcoming players a chance to shine. The management should also invest more in the current players, and ensure they are comfortable. Remuneration should be commensurate with the efforts these players are putting forth. Those in international football, say in Europe, have made it a career since it pays well. The same should be the case locally. We should not only expect good results without rewarding the same financially.
Is it all play for Collins Injera?
Not at all. I just graduated last June with a degree in Public Relations from Daystar University. I also have a passion for photography. In addition, I intend to follow in my mother’s footsteps and become a successful farmer. Actually, I already have some greenhouse projects. Hopefully, I will also try rearing pigs in the near future. Future plans are many.
Your final word?
Well, it is the wish of every sportsman or woman to be part of the largest sporting event on earth — the Olympics. I can confidently submit that the current rugby team has got what it takes to be in Rio in 2016. See you there.