Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) RFC boasts one of the youngest and formidable inside centres in Kenyan rugby, in the name of one, Samuel Mbeche.
Mbeche, a final year Bachelor of Optometry and Vision Science student has been playing for the Kakamega based outfit in his five years of study at the institution.
In an exclusive interview with Scrummage, Mbeche narrates of his journey in rugby and his targets, set for next season.
“My first interaction with rugby was at Nairobi ‘Patch’ School. I was an adamant fan of volleyball then, before one day, a friend of mine took me to the rugby pitch. It was called samba pitch. It was then, after being taken through some several drills, that I got encouraged to play,” he reckons.
His inspiration, he says, was oriented by the well-known rugby culture associated with Patch.
“The culture was good. Rugby was the main sport at Patch and you could hear about it once you joined School. The school also had produced best players in the Kenyan rugby history scene. An example is the first International rugby player Edward Rombo, who was from Nairobi School,” he says.
Mbeche, who featured in MMUST’s clean sweep of the 2017 Nationwide title, was often deployed as a fullback, a position which he first played.
“I remember we got to the pitch and we were told to play. we did not know about the positions but after evaluation from the coach and senior players, they told me I should be a fullback. That is where I started,” he says.
It was later at MMUST, that Mbeche switched from fullback to his current position.
“When I came to MMUST I was playing as a fullback during the Nationwide. There was a time we did not have a centre and I was asked to try it out. It was interesting and turned out to be my favourite position,” he says.
After Patch, Mbeche recalls he was destined to join the University of Nairobi (UON), before coming across a MMUST rugby trials advert and that is how he joined the Kakamega based side.
“I was selected to join UON for BA in Economics and Statistic. While at it, I came across an online advert that MMUST were offering scholarships and there were to be rugby trials. It was the first time they were conducting the trials and on presenting my papers, I qualified to join them,” he says.
For many, balancing classwork and sports always pose as a mountainous challenge, but not for Mbeche. His secret, he says, is treating both of them with uttermost importance.
“Balancing sports and education has not been an itch considering I started it early. Back in high school, it was tough as once I saw my grades reduce. At university there is so much time, my goal has been to attend all the lectures which have really worked. Training, on the other hand, gets me active and I believe fitness yields high processing minds,” says Mbeche.
With only three seasons on his calendar stay with MMUST, Mbeche was elected captain of the side, a responsibility he says came with lessons and challenges.
“I was a third-year by the time I was being handed the captaincy. By that time, MMUST had senior players who had featured at different levels and it was hard to command and guide them. But they supported and accepted me when they saw what I wanted for the team. At some point, I was almost giving up but I was encouraged by the coach to hold on,” he says.
In his first season as captain, Mbeche led the students to a commanding nationwide win and secure a championship spot, in his most memorable rugby moment.
“I have won tournaments, matches but honestly the best moment was when we were promoted to the Champions during my first year as captain. It was a real struggle. We had been trying since I was a first-year,’ he says.
On his role models and the teams he supports both locally and internationally, Mbeche looks up to KCBs and Kenya Simbas speedster Jacob Ojee locally, while internationally he favors Ireland’s, Bundee Aki.
“I have young players that motivate me. In Kenya, I look up to Jacob Ojee. Internationally, there are a variety, there is no specific player. I support Mmust locally but In Kenya Cup I do like how Oilers are. They are a young side exposing young players and they are playing a good game. Super Rugby I support crusaders,” he revealed.
Mbeche says he would have gone for bodybuilding as a sport if he didn’t join rugby. He has been participating in bodybuilding competitions and for three years in a row, he has been crowned Mr Flex at MMUST.
“If not playing rugby- I would be a weight lifting. I have been trying it in MMUST and I am proudly MR Flex, three times in a row something I didn’t plan. My teammates and student told to try and I did it,” he said.
The centre acknowledges that rugby as a sport has taught him to be tolerant and he has been able to tackle tough life situations.
“I have learned a lot. From the first time I started playing rugby, I could relate it with life because life has not been easy. It has helped me endure a lot of stuff in life. I have been able to grow and I can say it is a good thing.”
He is keen to guide the side to Kenya Cup and also help his teammates improve. He also hopes up his game in the shorter version of the game, having missed the opening legs of the National 7s Circuit due to a knee injury.
“The coming season targets are to get a promotion to Kenya cup and probably grow more talent within the team thus we’ve registered a nationwide team, After that, I think it’ll be a high time to get my 7s game up and running, I thought this season could work but I got slowed by a knee injury. At the end of the day, I want entertainment, I want to have fun.”
Mbeche is happy that the Kenya Simbas Head Coach Paul Odera has been exposing new talents to the National team and wishes that the coach will have a look at good talents at MMUST is his next selections.
“I’ve seen good exposure by the Kenya 15s coach this season even from the championship League and I hope he will have a look at MMUST and I’m certain some of us deserve the chance too and we are working,” he concluded.
Quick Glance Mbeche’s profile
Name: Samuel Mbeche
Weight: 83 KG
Position: Center, Winger, Fullback
School: Nairobi School
Course: Optometry and Vision Science
Achievements: Nationwide league winner, KUSA 7s 2019 winner, Mr Flex MMUST