The Kenya sevens national team has over the years won over the admiration of many ardent followers of the game; if not for their inspiring underdog success stories then for sure for their animated try celebrations.
Their stats for the 2018 HSBC Sevens World Series however don’t make for a happy reading. It’s been a case of nearly but not quite for Shujaa, who have yet to meet their target after five legs of the current campaign.
Kenya retained their place in eighth on the global standings after the Las Vegas circuit over the weekend, having accumulated ten points- two points shy of their total accrual in Hamilton last month.
The East Africans slumped to a 19-14 defeat in their opening match to fond rivals France, but were quick to bounce back to winning ways with a routine 19-12 victory over the lowly rated but highly mountainous Russia.
It’s however Fiji, the Hamilton champions, that were expected to offer stern resistance in Pool A. The Flying Fijians drew first blood when Amenoni Nasilasila set up Paula Dranisinukula for the try after a clean break by Terry Tuwai.
Nasilasila converted to extend Fiji’s lead but Collins Injera scored on his return from injury to level matters at the break. The try scorer then turned to provider when Kenya used the numbers gain, following a Fijian sin-bin, to lead the match for the first time through Samuel Ngethe.
The South Pacific islanders restored their lead through Alasio Naduva’s try and a Mesulame Kunavula conversion, but Andrew Amonde’s heroics condemned Fiji to a shock 17-14 defeat.
Kenya’s fourth appearance in the Cup quarterfinals this year ended with a defeat to Argentina and subsequent loss to Australia after extra time in the fifth place semi-finals; one that saw them finish seventh in Nevada.
The United States were the surprise winners of the Las Vegas tour, galloping 28-0 past Argentina to clinch the Cup final on home turf.
Mike Friday, who resigned from coaching Shujaa in 2013 citing interference by certain elements in the Kenya Rugby Union, guided USA to victory in the Cup final; their first success since lifting the Main Cup in London three years ago.
Shujaa will nonetheless have to work their socks off in their next outing, having been placed in a tricky pool for the sixth leg set to take centre stage in Vancouver. The Kenyans, who are in Pool C, will be pitting their strength against familiar opponents in Fiji and France, but will line up against Spain for the first time in nearly a year.
Fiji will without question be baying for blood after their surprise subjugation in Vegas, while Kenya will be looking to spur a tinderbox against France following defeat during their opening duel against the Europeans last time out; Shujaa licking their lips at the prospect of facing the Spaniards in the Canadian City.
Be that as it may, it will all boil down to how Innocent Simiyu’s charges counter fatigue and stay fresh for the Vancouver circuit, with the hope of booking passage into the Cup semi-finals for the first time his season.
Simiyu has a clean bill of health with no fresh injuries ahead of this weekend’s encounters.
Kenya 7s team for the Vancouver 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), Arthur Owira (KCB), Billy Odhiambo (Stanbic Mwamba), Collins Injera (Stanbic Mwamba), Erick Ombasa (Menengai Oilers) and Samuel Ng’ethe (Menengai Oilers).
Kenya has also named 12 players for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games slated for April 4-15 in Australia. The squad was released in compliance with the requirement of naming participating players a month prior to commencement of the games.
Kenya 7s team for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games
Oscar Ayodi (Captain), Oscar Ouma, Collins Injera, Eden Agero, Nelson Oyoo, Dan Sikuta, Samuel Ngethe, Samuel Oliech, Billy Odhiambo, Jeffrey Oluoch, Andrew Amonde and Willy Ambaka.
Overall Sevens World Series prospects
Holders South Africa have the highest chance of clinching the Vancouver sevens at $2.25 on Sportsbet.com.au while Kenya are a distant $226 to emerge victorious.
Shujaa have experience on their side and could finish higher on the log despite being in a highly volatile pool.
Kenya 7s fixtures
Kenya vs. France: Saturday, March 10, 2018 – 10:14a.m Local time – BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
Kenya vs. Spain: Sunday, March 11, 2018 – 1:46p.m Local time – BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
Kenya vs. Fiji: Sunday, March 11, 2018 – 5:40p.m Local time – BC Place, Vancouver, Canada
Kenya 7s recent results
Fiji 14-17 Kenya (March 3, 2018)
Kenya 14-19 France (March 3, 2018)
Kenya 33-7 Spain (May 21, 2017)
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