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|Current season, competition or edition:
2016 Safari Sevens
|Motto||Africa's premier rugby sevens tournament|
|Venue(s)||Moi International Sports Centre, Nairobi, Kenya|
|Most titles||Kenya (9)|
|Qualification||By application and invitation.|
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.
Initially held at the RFUEA Ground, home of the Kenya Rugby Union, the tournament has since moved to the Nyayo National Stadium and since 2013 to the 60,000 seat Moi International Sports Centre to allow for increased number of spectators.
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, 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 wer two slots open to the African Zone. Zimbabwe defeated Kenya in the final.
The tournament would grow in stature with a large increase in crowds numbers. In 2004 the first women's team played in the tournament.
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. 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) 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, 31–12. 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.
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 17–5, Western Province took the schools title with a 19–0 win over Nyanza, while Mwamba RFC I won the ladies title with a 54–0 win over Vivi.
The tournament, under title sponsorship from Kenyan mobile telephony giant Safaricom, and now known as the Safaricom Sevens, was hosted for the last time at the RFUEA Grounds 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.
When the Kenya Rugby Union revealed that the 2013 tournament would be held at the 60000 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 included proximity from downtown Nairobi 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."
Table of Previous Winners
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.
- Kenyapage.net: The History of Rugby in Kenya
- Daily Nation, 25 May 2010:  Tickets on sale
- Kenyapage.net: The History of Rugby in Kenya
- Daily Nation, May 11, 2010 : Tietjens for Safaricom 7s
- Safari Sevens 2009: Magazine