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Kevin Wambua: How An Injury Earned Me Top Job As Shujaa 7s Head Coach At 34

On August 4, 2023, the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) announced they had fired Damian Mc Grath as the Kenya Shujaa 7s team coach.

In his place, they appointed Kevin (Bling) Wambua Muema.

Although it was the first time he held the docket, Wambua’s name was already a hit among rugby fanatics. 

Since his appointment, he has led the team to a number of victories, the most recent being retaining the Safari Sevens Crown. 

But who exactly is Kevin Wambua? 

This is his journey as told by WoK:

Ankle injury

Wambua’ rise to rugby coaching was far from conventional. 

It happened in 2009 when he got an ankle injury while captaining the Mwamba Rugby Club. 

“I got an ankle injury while training and was out for three months,” he told Nation. 

Despite the injury, Kevin, who describes himself as a hands-on person, did not relish the idea of staying at home idle for three months waiting for his recovery. 

As he was contemplating what to do, Tito Oduok, the director for Rugby at Mwamba, introduced him to the world of coaching. 

He attended a level one coaching clinic and after passing the test, he was given the opportunity to coach the Mwamba second team. 

From the get-go, his learning paid off as he guided the team to the final stage of the annual Mwamba Cup. 

To boost his skills and stay ahead of trends, Kevin attended advanced coaching courses and is credited as one of the few Kenyan coaches who have passed through the hands of New Zealand national team coaches. 

He learned how the New Zealanders, who are ranked in the list of the top 5 best rugby teams in the world, dominate charts by developing their rugby teams from the early age of 12. 

When he returned to Kenya, he used the learned skills to transform the local game. 

In 2013, he attended another advanced coaching course in South Africa aimed at bridging the talents and age grades. 

The course gave him the skills to handle young and upcoming players, which is among the reasons he is credited for discovering plenty of rugby talent in Kenyan schools. 

Coaching job

Wambua’s efforts as a junior coach at Mwamba RC attracted the attention of Peponi Preparatory School management, who hired him for a part-time coaching job. 

Peponi is an international school which is reportedly owned by the Kenyatta family. 

In 2012, more opportunities came Wambua’s way when he was hired as a coach at Laiser Hill Academy. 

That was his first stable job as a coach and it opened up more opportunities as he was appointed the head coach of the Kenya Lionesses and Daystar University rugby teams. 

Under his leadership, Laiser Hill Academy won the national rugby school title in 2015 in Nakuru and the regional title that year.

The school ruby team also bagged the Soya Team Award of the Year twice. 

The school went on to dominate the school sevens and 15s competitions during his tenure. 

“At one time, I was managing three teams, which was a tricky position because they were all looking up to me to steer them to victory,” he told Nation. 

Prior to his appointment to coach the Shujaa team, he was the Rugby 7s assistant coach, a position he had occupied in 2018. 

At 34, he became the youngest coach in the history of Kenya Sevens and one of the youngest professional coaches in Kenya. 

For instance, Harambee stars coach Engin Firat is 53 years old while Malkia strikers’ coach Paul Bitok is 49 years old.  

Wambua credits his success to the support from mentors like Oduk and John Mbayi. 

The young talents he nurtured are today in the first teams of top clubs like KCB Bank, Mwamba, Homeboyz, and Kenya Harlequins. 

Some of the players who have passed through his hands include Johnstone Olindi of KCB, John Daniel Gichuki of Homeboyz, and Christophe Asira of Mwamba. 

How he Got his nickname Bling

The story goes that during his days at Mwamba, Wambua was a flashy guy, flaunting chains and jewelry. 

He was one of the few players who had pierced his ears, wore studs, and glossed meticulously over his looks and dress. 

Consequently, players resorted to calling him Bling Bling. 

However, the nickname stuck because there was another player at Mwamba called Kevin, and so, to differentiate between the two, people resorted to referring to Wambua as Kevin Bling.

His most memorable moment as a player was captaining Mwamba to win back-to-back Kenya Rugby Union Sevens titles in 2007 and 2008 and later the Impala Floodlight in 2009. 

Some of his achievements include beating South Africa back to back in 2018 with the Kenya Lioness team and winning the Women’s African Cup, leading him to be nominated as the Soya 2018 coach of the year. 

He also won the Team of the Year Award with the Kenya Lionesses, qualifying for the Gold Coast Common Wealth games and beating Australia with the Kenya Lionesses. 

However, despite his achievements, he says being a coach is not easy because there are a lot of expectations to produce good results and one can live a stressful life if they are not careful. 

His call is for corporates to support the Kenya Rugby  Union’s efforts to spread the game at the grassroots level and produce a crop of players that will take the country to the next level.