After closing the year on a frivolous note in Cape Town, Kenya‘s campaign in the HSBC Sevens World Series is steadily but surely gaining momentum.
Shujaa registered better results during the Sydney and Hamilton legs held in January and February respectively, but head coach Innocent Simiyu is adamant of a consummate performance this time round.
The World Series heads to Las Vegas, Nevada this weekend before navigating north to Vancouver a week later. Kenya is currently eighth on the table after chalking up 12 points from Hamilton, taking their total for the 2018 campaign to 35 points.
Simiyu ardently maintains that his target for the season is to attain 100 points, and the former Kenya Sevens captain will be marshalling his charges for the cause, having been placed in a relatively favorable Pool A alongside France, Russia and heavyweights Fiji.
Kenya will draw inspiration from their rip-roaring win over Russia towards the tail end of last year and their marginal victory over France in Sydney, but it is Fiji that the East Africans will be most wary of.
The Flying Fijians proved they were worth their salt when then rallied a brilliant comeback in the Hamilton Cup Final to register a stunning 24-17 win over reigning HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions South Africa.
The enthralling campaign has the South Pacific islanders up to third on the standings with 62 points, 7 points behind second placed New Zealand and a distant 15 points adrift of leaders South Africa.
Kenya and the more accomplished sides are worlds apart in every sense of the word, but Shujaa have received a massive boost with the return of winger Collins Injera.
Injera, the second leading all-time try scorer in the Sevens World Series, is expected to slot straight back into the line-up after recovering from a hamstring injury sustained during the Dubai circuit.
He will be joined by powerhouse Billy Odhiambo who likewise missed the outings in Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney due to injury; the two however selected at the expense of Brian Tanga and Augustine Lugonzo.
The return of the duo not only helps to stave off competition in their pool, but certainly gives Kenya a fighting chance, even as ‘Namcos’ Simiyu looks to inspire his side to a first Cup semi-final since taking over the reins of power from Benjamin Ayimba a little over a year ago.
Nonetheless, the team will be without the services of skipper Oscar Ayodi, who is still recuperating from a cartilage injury and Frank Wanyama who has been waylaid by pending duties in school.
Brian Tanga and Dennis Ombachi are slated to miss the next two circuits due to injury while Augustine Lugonzo is out due to work related commitment.
Seeing as it is a clustered season with the Commonwealth games scheduled for April and the much anticipated World Cup set for July, the Kenya sevens boss has issued a stern warning demanding performances shaped by utter grit and determination, emphasizing that there will be no joyrides under his watch.
Kenya 7s team for the Las Vegas and 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).
Overall Sevens World Series prospects
Defending champions South Africa are heavily backed at $1.67 on Sportsbet.com.au whereas Fiji is at $6. The Kenya national rugby sevens team is ninth in the rankings, at $501 to win the coveted prize.
The return of Injera and Odhiambo could very well help spur the team; one that may see Shujaa rake up their highest points thus far into the season.
Kenya 7s fixtures
Kenya vs. France: Saturday, March 3, 2018 -10:44a.m AEDT – Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, United States
Kenya vs. Russia: Saturday, March 3, 2018 – 1:45p.m AEDT – Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, United States
Kenya vs. Fiji: Sunday, March 4, 2018 – 7.36a.m AEDT – Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, United States
*The Vancouver sevens series is slated for March 10-11, 2018.
Kenya 7s recent results
Fiji 24-5 Kenya (January 28, 2018)
France 14-17 Kenya (January 27, 2018)
Kenya 34-0 Russia (December 9, 2017)
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