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Wainibuli leads Mwamba onto path of success

Fijian Meli Tuni Wainibuli was appointed Mwamba head coach during the 2012/2013 season and guided the Black Shirts to the Enterprise Cup and a fourth place in the Kenya Cup.

Since his arrival, the coach has evolved his squad around young players in the frame of Kevin Atandi and Phillip Ikambili, and they have risen to the occasion.

This has given the club sustenance, unlike two years back when the absence of national team stars such as Collins Injera and Lavin Asego would spell doom for the team.

Knee injury

Wainibuli was born and raised in Fiji.

He began playing senior rugby at 18 for the Army Rugby Club and later moved to Suva Province where he played alongside a galaxy of Fijian stars, notably Waisale Serevi, arguably the best player to ever feature in the IRB Sevens Series.

Unfortunately for the utility back, he had to turn his back on the national team in 1987 while at the Army club following a knee injury.

Wainibuli declined a second call up in 1990 hoping to make the Sevens team, but he failed to make the final cut.

But after accepting to play again in 1993, Wainibuli was deployed to the Middle East by the army as part of a peacekeeping forcing and this locked him out of the team.

Upon his return to Fiji in 1995, Wainibuli went back to Suva until 1998 when he quit.

“After retirement, I took up coaching at Suva and Nada provinces until 2000 when I went on a sabbatical to focus on my career with the United Nations,” he reminisces.

In 2010, Wainibuli was posted to Kenya as a logistics officer for the United Nations. He opted to relocate to Nairobi with his family.

One day Wainibuli and his sons watched Kenya Harlequins playing against Mwamba at the Rugby Football Union of East Afrixa Grounds and they were impressed by the spirit of the latter’s players, a feeling that drove them back to the club a few weeks later.

Consequently, Wainibuli joined the coaching unit as a technical advisor and held the role until 2012 when he was appointed head coach.

His sons, Jay and Saki also joined the club as players, and have been part of the impressive 2012/2013 team. They have, however, started university studies in South Africa and will play for Mwamba during holidays.

“When I got here the team was well conditioned, but lacked structures. The gap between the older generation and the upcoming players was wide. We concentrated on fixing that,” he said on his strategy at Mwamba.

Co-operation 

Wainibuli also attributes his milestones at the club to co-operation from the senior players, particularly those who are part of the national teams. They have set a good example to the younger players.

The Fijian is popular with players and fans alike following the steady growth.

“He has improved our skills a great deal using limited resources. The coach is also a father figure at the club which makes it easy for us to warm up to him,” said long-serving Mwamba front row Frank Akatu.

Wainibuli likes Nairobi because it reminds him of Fiji.

“The weather, the people and the night life are very exciting just like back home. They are very similar in many ways and that’s why I love Nairobi,” he said.

Whether his efforts at Mwamba will take them a position ahead of last season is something left to time, but his side is already a threat to teams seeking Kenya Cup glory.