The Kenya national rugby sevens team have every reason to be sanguine as they head into the final circuit of the 2017/18 HSBC Sevens World Series campaign, set to take place in Paris this weekend.
Shujaa attained their season target of reaching a century of points in the World Series standings, having amassed eight points from the London circuit last weekend to project their total to 101 points.
It was a monumental achievement for the Kenyans, as they not only registered their most impressive point tally in a single season, but also crossed over to the elusive 100-point mark for the first time since making their debut nearly two decades ago.
What’s more, the East Africans did it with a leg to spare after lifting the Challenge trophy following an emphatic 33-19 victory over Wales in the Challenge final.
Kenya began their penultimate leg of the campaign with plenty of humdrum, as they started the day with a 19-19 draw with the United States, before making amends for their apathetic opening match with a 24-21 win over France.
Victory over the French was routine and by and large expected, but it was the final match against England in Pool C that Shujaa needed to come big. Kenya could ill afford to be lethargic in order to give themselves any fighting chance of a podium finish, but the hosts proved too strong, as they blitzed past Shujaa with a 38-12 win at Twickenham Stadium; unequivocally condemning them to the Challenge trophy.
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It was only the second time this season that Kenya had failed to reach the quarterfinals of the competition; the first coming in Cape Town during the second circuit of the World Series.
Despite having abdicated their right to contest for a podium finish, their iron will refused to break, as the Kenya sevens rose from the ashes to win in rampant fashion against Spain and Argentina; triumphing 38-0 and 42-10 respectively to book their place in the Challenge final.
Jeffrey Oluoch scored two tries against Wales in the final to take his season tally to 75 points, while Collins Injera, Willy Mbaka and Eden Agero scored a try apiece for Shujaa.
Injera added to his sides’ tally with a successful conversion while Agero completed two conversions, as Kenya cruised to a 33-19 win over the Welsh in the final.
Although Shujaa were easy on the eye with a performance that credited the score line in the Challenge Cup final, their only blemish in this engrossing campaign has been their performance, or lack thereof, in the Cup final.
Twice has the Kenya Sevens come close to clinching the Cup this season; twice the Kenya national rugby sevens has fallen short of the mark. Shujaa were denied gold in Vancouver and Hong Kong, after sustaining back-to-back defeats to Fiji in the final.
The Flying Fijians, on 167 points, currently enjoy a seven point cushion after they leapfrogged South Africa to grace the helm of the World Series standings having secured gold in London.
Victory in London ensured the islanders won their fourth gold medal on the bounce, and fifth overall this season, as they look to finish strong heading into the final bout in the French capital.
Shujaa are however poised to face a tough assignment in Paris, as they have been placed in Pool A alongside heavyweights Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa.
The All Blacks, who finished second during the opening leg in Dubai but hit back immediately to secure gold in Cape Town, are four places above Kenya with 133 points.
Shujaa are seventh on the table with 101 points while Samoa are the lowest ranked team in the pool as they sit tenth on the log with 58 points, further highlighting the competitive nature of the group.
Kenya 7s team for the Paris tour
Oscar Ouma (Top Fry Nakuru, Captain), Samuel Oliech (Resolution Impala Saracens, Vice Captain), Andrew Amonde (KCB), Eden Agero (SportPesa Quins), Willy Ambaka (SportPesa Quins), Dan Sikuta (Kabras Sugar), Jeff Oluoch (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Nelson Oyoo (Top Fry Nakuru), Herman Humwa (SportPesa Quins), Billy Odhiambo (Stanbic Mwamba), Collins Injera (Stanbic Mwamba), Erick Ombasa (Menengai Oilers) and Samuel Ng’ethe (Menengai Oilers).
Overall Sevens World Series prospects
Holders South Africa could relinquish their title to Fiji who have been imperious over the last four rounds.
Shujaa on the other hand need to avoid complacency having already attained their goal for the season, seeing as they are in the proverbial pool of death.
Targeting a minimum of 10 points in Paris will be something to build on ahead of the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens to be held next month at the AT&T Park in San Francisco.
Kenya 7s fixture
New Zealand vs. Kenya: Saturday, June 9, 2018 – 10:28a.m Local time – Stade Jean Bouin, Paris
Fiji vs. Kenya: Saturday, June 9, 2018 – 1:46p.m Local time – Stade Jean Bouin, Paris
Kenya vs. Samoa: Saturday, June 9, 2018 – 6:52p.m Local time – Stade Jean Bouin, Paris
Kenya 7s recent results
New Zealand 17-7 Kenya (April 29, 2018)
New Zealand 40-7 Kenya (April 14, 2018)
Fiji 24-12 Kenya (April 8, 2018)
Fiji 31-12 Kenya (March 12, 2018)
Samoa 19-15 Kenya (February 4, 2018)
Kenya 19-14 Samoa (February 3, 2018)
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