OPINION

Snook's eye for youths vital in securing Kenya Simbas future

“Anya is a really exciting player.He is a back three player with lots of pace and talent .We are pretty excited about what he has to offer.We see him as one of the future stars of Kenyan rugby.”
Those were the sentiments of Kenya Simbas coach Ian Snook on winger Edmund Anya before the team jetted out to Morocco for their Africa Gold Cup opener in June this year.
It has to go without saying that any team that has bigger ambitions for the future must invest in proper youth structures.
When New Zealander Ian Snook was named Kenya Simbas head coach in April 2018,not many of the local rugby faithful had a clue of what his long term policy was until he named his first squad, handing the nod to Kenya U20 skipper Xavier Kipng’etich as well as his Chipu mates Zeden Marrow and Edmund Anya of Strathmore Leos.
William Diffu of Homeboyz was to receive a late call up to the side and this brought the number of Kenya U20 players in the Simbas camp to 4.
Well, receiving a call up  should not be enough ;every player will tell you that they are always extra motivated whenever they step into the field for duty.
Of the four rookies in camp, only Diffu is yet to have a feel of international rugby as Kipng’etich made his debut during the Elgon Cup first leg against Uganda in Kampala, replacing Samson Onsomu in their 34-16 win over the hosts.
The Maseno School alumnus was yet again to make a cameo in the return leg in Nairobi,coming in for his Impala teammate.
Could this be an indication that Snook is grooming the Kenya U20 skipper  to succeed Onsomu at 9?
Who knows ? With the likes of Patrice Agunda and Oscar Ouma having started off their illustrious careers with the Kenyan U19 team, these youngsters are poised to become the next big things in Kenyan Rugby.
When Simbas kicked off their World Cup qualifiers away to Morocco, Anya was a surprise inclusion in the starting XV, starting at blindside wing for Jacob Ojee who was unavailable.During the same encounter, another rookie in Marrow was on the bench.
Anya’s second start would come in Nairobi in a match Simbas had to dig deep to see off a resolute Zimbabwe side.
In 2017,Snook’s predecessor Jerome Paarwater called up two members of the junior side – Steve Otieno of Homeboyz and Nondies’ Benjamin Marshall.
The duo was however sparingly used during the season with Otieno featuring as a substitute in the side’s 100-10 annihilation of Tunisia.
A  scan through squads of some of the best ranked countries globally  reveals that most if not all of their important cogs are graduates of their junior sides.Lets see.
Ryan Crotty who will be in action for Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby final was part of the New Zealand side that bagged Gold during the 2008 World U20 Championship in Wales.
Crotty’s fellow countrymen in Beauden Barret, Julian Savea,Will Genia and Sam Whitelock are all graduates of the U20 side so is English forward Maro Itoje.
Closer home, we find that Eben Etzebeth who is capped 67 times by South Africa has previously donned the green and gold of the junior Boks so has his compatriot Handre Pollard.
Cliven Loubser who only last year represented Namibia U20 in the Barthes Trophy is currently the most preffered artillery for the Welwitschias at flyhalf and he is largely expected to contend for a place in the 2018 Africa Gold Cup team of the tournament.

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