Rugby United New York Release
NEW YORK (August 20, 2018)- Rugby United New York is excited to announce the signing of Forwards Coach Kees Lensing for the 2019 Major League Rugby Season. Lensing, born in Namibia, spent the past three seasons as the Forwards Coach with the Japanese Top League’s Cannon Eagles.
Lensing started his playing career in 1999 with the Northern Free State Griffons, in South Africa. In 2002, he made his debut for the Namibian national team, and was the first choice loose-head prop in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Lensing then moved to the Blue Bulls in 2004. After two seasons, he moved to England to play for Yorshire Carnegie, formerly known as Leeds Tykes. He spent one season with the club, was then recruited by the Sharks of Super Rugby, and made his return to South Africa.
Lensing continued to shine for the Namibian national team, and served as their captain for the 2007 Rugby World Cup, marking his second trip to the quadrennial competition. After a strong tournament, he moved to France to play for the Top 14 side Castres Olympique. He continued his impressive form, and Lensing helped the Namibian national team qualify for the 2011 Rugby World Cup before announcing his retirement as a player due to injury.
Lensing transitioned into a coaching career in 2013 as the Forwards Coach for the Limpopo Bulls’ Under 21 Team, a subsect of the Blue Bulls’ franchise, also acting as Head Coach for the Blue Bulls’ Tuks Rugby Academy. He still serves as a consultant for those teams in various capacities. In 2014, Lensing signed on to be the Forwards Coach for the Investec International Rugby Academy, also in South Africa.
His strong coaching ability, and unique motivational tactics, garnered attention from the Cannon Eagles, of the Japanese Top League. In 2015, he signed on to be the Forwards Coach, specializing in scrums, defense, and the breakdown. He designed scrum strategies, implemented progressive scrum drills to the club, and was instrumental in designing weekly game plans. In 2015, he helped the Eagles place 6th out of 16 teams in the Top League. 5 of his forwards were selected for the Japanese national team during the 2017 season.
Lensings’ wife, an attorney, had professional opportunities in New York City that were too attractive to pass up. At the time, he also had options on the table to continue coaching from various clubs in Europe. The two made the move to the Big Apple, and Lensing was actively looking for coaching roles in the area, mainly at the collegiate and club level.
“A lot of options were presented to me as my contract was ending with the Eagles. There were exciting coaching opportunities that were tough to turn down. However, I had to do what was best for my family, and that was to move to New York City,” Lensing said. “I always planned on coaching when I came over. I heard about Major League Rugby, and Rugby United New York, and saw the opportunity there.”
Lensing reached out to RUNY General Manager James English about joining the staff. The two met for the first time in a Financial District coffee shop and instantly hit it off. The following weeks, English did more research on the Namibian international, reached out to his network, and began to understand the impact he could potentially have on the club. Lensing was brought into meet with Rugby United New York owner James Kennedy, and after a few weeks of negotiations, he was brought onto the staff.
“The opportunity to coach for Rugby United New York, the first professional rugby team in New York City, was too good to pass up. I expect to come in and compete from Day 1,” Lensing said. “I’m very excited for our first Major League Rugby season.”
Kees joins a coaching staff comprised of Head Coach Mike Tolkin and General Manager James English. Everyone from Rugby United New York looks forward to welcoming Kees and his wife to the organization.