In part one of our feature story starring Edwin Achayo, we traversed his steady rise in the beautiful game; from a young protégé in the streets of Mombasa to becoming a household name at Kenya Harlequins, and his experience with the national team side, Kenya Simbas.
But that was not all that was there to tell.
It is of no argument that Achayo hit his career-high at Quins. A three-peat Kenya Cup title to one’s name, the Enterprise Cup and Bambari Super Series titles is no mean feat. Achayo achieved all these deeds while at Quins. It was also, while at the Ngong-Road-based side, that he received his first national call up.
Come 2014, however, Achayo decided to call it time with Quins and a new chapter in his career was born. His destination was Kakamega, to join the then Kenya Cup new boys Kabras RFC.
So why the switch from Nairobi to Kakamega? From a household name in the history of Kenyan rugby to the newbies?
“Our shelflife as rugby players is short and anything can happen being a constant contact sport. I was looking for other opportunities having finished campus.”
“It was not an easy decision but I considered many factors including being close to Siaya where the majority of my family members are.”
“My stay with Quins was going smooth, but as athletes, the best way to measure your progress is to take on new challenges. Kabras had just been promoted and were in the search for new, experienced players. After they contacted me, I handed in a transfer request and headed for the new challenge that laid ahead,” he said.
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His first season with Kabras (2014/15), he said, ranks among the very best in his entire career. It was also Kabras’ first season in the top flight league. In what their sole task was to avoid the chop, Kabras produced a shocker of a season. In a blink, they were storming into the semifinals.
They pipped the then defending champions Nakuru RFC 15-12 at the famous Suguta Valley, but fell in the finals against KCB 27-3. For newcomers, though, whose odds were greatly against them, the achievement was a game-changer.
Come the following season (2015/16), now armed with a new furnished squad, and the heroics of the previous season, Kabras lifted their maiden Kenya Cup title, beating Impala Saracens 22-5 at Impala Club.
“The 2015 semifinal win against Nakuru ranks among the best games I’ve ever played in. Nobody gave us a chance, we were just newbies with a few experienced players. To come through that season, the close call with KCB and Nakuru motivated us a lot. It was the building block to winning the title the following season,” he said.
“Our biggest challenge of developing a culture turned our greatest arsenal. All this was achieved with players who came through with close to zero experience. Players were coming through and they needed that playing maturity on and off the field, I am glad we achieved that objective,” he added.
Just when Kakamega was fast becoming a home for Achayo, the inevitable moment finally arrived. After the 2017/18 final which Kabras lost 29-24 to KCB, Achayo decided to call it time in his long, successful career and immediately took a coaching role.
The reason building up to the decision, he said: “was a niggling hip joint dislocation that I never considered serious at first. I had taken a hit some years back while on international duty against Tunisia. Specialist advice was to take some time off which I did. I was playing through injections on my return.”
His eagerness to return to the game was eventually outmuscled with the injury. To avoid worsening the situation, Achayo bowed down.
“The confidence I had in the work that I had put into some of the young players coming up; Tanga (Brian), Barry (Robinson), Angwech (Dan) also fueled the decision. I was sure it wouldn’t take long before one of them fill my shoes,” he said.
True to his words, his void was perfectly filled in what formed the foundation to his coaching duties at Kabras.
His charges had graduated to international capped players, and for Achayo, this, helping young inexperienced players to achieve their dream, was a mentality he had held close since his time from Mombasa, where his journey began.
“Since my time at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Cougars, I always used to help the young lads in running some drills. Coaching has always been something I love to do; being part of the development process,” he said.
Currently, in charge of the Kabras team II read Eric Shirley Shield (ESS) side, Achayo did not hold back to express his confidence and readiness for a top job.
“Working with some great international coaches in the game like Mike Bishop, Charles Cardovillis and Henly Du Plessis will obviously instil confidence in any aspiring coach. It is more than a privilege to me. I have been able to pick their brain, although each of them has a unique way of style of play, and added it to my own. I am more than ready,” he said.
“Call me arrogant but I am always confident myself. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I am eager and open to learn at any time. I’ll never pass out the opportunity. Anything in life you just have to able to step up to it. From my playing days, I’ve always wanted to end up as a coach. It’s a mentality that I am not going to change anytime soon. If the opportunity presents itself to me, at any place, I’ll be more than willing to take it,” he added.
Punned with whether one day we will witness his return, Achayo laughed, “You can never say never. I believe I can still hold my own.”
Watch more on his Kabras stay, coaching experience, the origin of K9 tag, working with top coaches and now leading the ESS side from minute 13:43: