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Shujaa star Ambaka to retire after Sydney 7s



Shujaa star Ambaka to retire after Sydney 7s

Kenya Sevens strength and conditioning coach Geoffrey Kimani, who knows him like the back of his palm summed up his 13 years rugby journey in the most unique way.

“Professional, passionate, driven and a fiercely hard working athlete,” Kimani described one of Kenya Sevens greats, William “Lomu” Ambaka after he announced his retirement from international rugby after 13 years.

The 32-year-old Ambaka, who is currently with Kenya Sevens team on World Rugby Sevens Series tour, disclosed on his social media pages on Thursday that Sydney Sevens, the fifth leg of the 2022/23 World Sevens Series due for this weekend in Australia, would be his “Last Hunt.” 

“13 years ago, this young man became my first ever athlete in the Speedstars Sports Performance-Kenya programs,” Kimani said. “Thanks to these qualities and belief from Benjamin Otieno Ayimba his talent was easily refined, making his debut at the 2010 World Rugby Sevens Series leg of Hongkong and Adelaide.”

Kimani, who is among sportsmen and women who paid tribute to Ambaka upon his pronouncement, said that he has been more than an athlete to him and his family. 

“Just as a parent tears whilst seeing their kid leave the nest, tonight was one of those emotional nights as he picked his playing jersey for the last time,” said Kimani, who is with the team in Australia.

“Thank you Willy for your commitment and time, you have inspired many more,” Kimani told Ambaka, who is among a handful of Kenyan players to have played professional rugby abroad.

“After 13 incredible years playing for Kenya Rugby Union, I am beginning to understand that while pursuing great things, it is the pursuit that holds the greatest value,” Ambaka said.

“While it has been a tremendous journey, now it is time to pull the curtains on my international rugby sevens tournaments.”

Ambaka, who was in the historic Kenya Sevens team that won the 2016 Singapore Sevens tournament besides making the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2013, 2018 and 2022 and the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said Sydney Sevens will be his last appearance with Kenya Sevens.

“Whether on or off the pitch, I hold many experiences close to my heart,” said Ambaka, who featured at the 2018 and 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Ambaka paid tribute to Kimani, former Kenya Sevens coaches, the late Benjamin Ayimba, Mike Friday and Charles Cardovillis, and the current Kenya Sevens coach Damian McGrath for supporting his course besides former Kenya Simbas and Kenya Harlequin coach Edward Kinyany and his family.

“To the teams I played for in France, New Zealand, South Africa and Russia, thank you,” said Ambaka, who launched his rugby career at Kenya Harlequin in 2010 where Kimani was quick to recommend him to Ayimba, who was then the Kenya Sevens head coach.

Ambaka would then make his debut with the team at the 2011 World Rugby Sevens Series for the Hong Kong and Adelaide Sevens and was to later take part in the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 World Series.

Ambaka made  the 2012-2013 World Series Dream Team owing to his astute performance and went on to be nominated for the 2013 World Rugby Sevens Series player of the Year award that was eventually won by Tim Mikkelson from New Zealand.

Ambaka was also included in the Kenya Simbas side that played in the 2014 Africa Cup which doubled as the 2015 Rugby World Cup Africa qualifying tournament but withdrew with an ankle injury.

Ambaka signed a professional contract with French side Lyon in 2013 for the 2013-2014 Rugby Pro D2 season, becoming the first Kenyan rugby player to play for a team in the top two divisions in France. Ambaka played in 10 matches and scored six tries as Lyon won the title and promotion to the Top 14 for 2014-2015.

In 2014, then Kenya Simbas coach Jerome Paarwater recruited Ambaka for South Africa Currie Cup side, Western Province, for the 2014 Currie Cup Premier Division season.

However, he would suffer an ankle injury and made no appearance for the team during their title-winning 2014 season but played for them in 2015.

Ambaka would cast his nets far east in New Zealand where he joined Manawatu for the 2017-18 season and played at the renowned Mitre 10 Cup, a National Provincial Championship.

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