Kenya sevens seek revival in Wellington
Can Kenya Sevens revive their dream of getting an automatic place at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by finishing in the top four at the conclusion of the 2014/2015 World Rugby Sevens Series?
That is the question the rejuvenated team under head coach Felix “Toti” Ochieng will be grappling with when they open their Wellington Sevens title quest against Argentina at dawn on Friday.
The duel against the Pumas, whom they met last at Tokyo Sevens lasts season, starts at 3:24am at the Westpac Stadium. They will then play Scotland at 6:42am before wrapping up their Pool D encounter against Samoa at 9:54am.
Kenyans is currently placed 14th in the Series standings with 11 points after reaching Shield final at Gold Coast and Dubai and the Bowl final at the Mandela Bay Sevens, Port Elizabeth.
A top four finish will therefore require extra hard work if they hope to make it to the Olympics in Brazil. If they fail, they will have to go through Africa region qualifying tournament.
Kenya will be meeting the Pumas for the first since last year’s Tokyo Sevens where they edged out the South Americans 24-7 at the pool stages. Kenya reached the plate semis, losing to Australia 0-36.
They are yet to meet Scotland this season but faced off three times last season where Kenya emerged victors in two of the encounters. One of the meetings was at the Wellingtons Sevens bowl final where Kenya triumphed 24-14.
Samoa mauled Kenya Sevens 5-40 in their last outing at Dubai Sevens bowl quarterfinals.
“The players know that we are not where we are supposed to be in the World Rugby Sevens Series hence are focused to giving out better results,” said Ochieng. “We are not naïve but fully focused on the task ahead.”
Some key players who missed the last three legs, including speedster Collins Injera and Lavin Asego from Mwamba, are back in the team.
Also re-drafted into the team are prodigy Billy Odhiambo, Michael Wanjala (senior) and Tony Owuor from Strathmore Leos as well as Dan Sikuta of Mwamba, who missed the South Africa leg having played in Dubai.
It will also be interesting to see how Felix Ayange, who also missed the last three legs, following a shoulder operation, will operate behind the scrum.
Injera, Owuor, Wanjala and Odhiambo opted out of the team for the opening three legs in Gold Coast, Dubai and Port Elizabeth owing to contractual issues while Asego has not played for the team since the 2013 Rugby World Cup in Moscow.
Skipper Andrew Amonde said they have worked on the team’s defensive and attacking patterns hence they are out for improved a below par performances that the team has been posting this season.
“The players have sacrificed a lot and perhaps that will be replicated by good results,” said Amonde.
Squad: Andrew Amonde (Captain, KCB), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Lavin Asego (Mwamba), Daniel Sikuta (Mwamba), Billy Odhiambo (Strathmore), Tony Owuor (Strathmore), Michael Wanjala (Strathmore), Leonard Mugaisi (Homeboyz), Oscar Ayodi (Homeboyz), Bush Mwale (Homeboyz), Patrice Agunda (Quins), Felix Ayange (Quins),
Kenya vs Argentina (3:24am)
Kenya vs. Scotland (6:42am)
Kenya vs. Samoa (9:54am)