Kenya Sevens Rugby side without Collins Injera will play hosts France, England and minnows Spain in Saturday’s penultimate round of HSBC World Series at Paris’ Jean Bouln Stadium.
Eleventh-ranked Shujaa open their Pool C campaign with France at 1:12pm without their talismanic try-scorer but nonetheless itching to upset the home team and boost their bid for a third cup quarter-final appearance since the 2016/2017 series commenced.
There is cause for optimism in Shujaa’s opening tie against France who are ranked 12th following Kenya’s 29-12 drubbing of the European team in Hong Kong last month.
Victory over France will leave Innocent Simiyu’s side needing just one more win to guarantee a last eight finish in the Main Cup. The hosts will miss key players in Terry Bouhraoua and Pierre Gilles Lakafia but will no doubt be fired up to impress their home fans. France have however, been boosted by the return of Virimi Vakatawa and look to trouble the largely young and inexperienced Kenyan team.
The second Pool C encounter pits Shujaa with minnows Spain at 4:38pm with Kenya expected to win. Spain is not ranked in the Sevens circuit and should not pose insurmountable challenges to Kenya.
However, Shujaa recently contrived to lose 22-0 to Russia and do not inspire past confidence even when facing such small teams. Without injured vice captain Injera, skipper Andrew Amonde, Dennis Ombachi and Billy are the only players with considerable experience in the series. Simuyu drafted Darwin Mukidza to replace Injera.
“We have brought in Darwin Mukidza who is very good in the attack, very good in open play and the high ball. His physicality is quite good, having had an outstanding season and league final where he led his club side KCB to the title.”
Simiyu said Kenya will close Pool C campaign against third-placed England at 8:26pm with lots to worry about. Dan Norton has overtaken Injera as leading all time try scorer and could pick Kenya apart with his trademark sprints.
Kenya’s hesitance in making tackles has seen them ship in avoidable tries and if allowed to roam unimpeded Norton could increase easily add to his 249 tries against Shujaa with ease.
Shujaa are 13th in the list of tackles made, 256 shy of leaders South Africa. The statistic added on to other undesirables like restart errors, missed conversions, penalties conceded and handling mistakes leave a lot to be desired from a team that showed plenty of promise last season.
The team has returned a flat performance this season, failing to record double digit points in six of the eight legs played so far. Kenya’s highest points tally (12) this season was realized in Cape Town, South Africa during the second leg followed by Singapore in which Shujaa failed to defend the only Cup title they have won.