Kenya Sevens rugby team are 41 points shy of last season’s finishing mark as the team head to London, United Kingdom for the final leg of 2016/2017 World Rugby Series this weekend.
There is a conspicuous absence of the buzz that greeted Shujaa in Paris and London following their epic victory of the Singapore leg last season. Their showing at Twickenham was, however, dismal as they collected just three points.
Nonetheless, the team recorded their highest tally of 98 at the close of season, a feat that will certainly not be repeated this time. Kenya is “trapped” in Pool A with series winners South Africa, high-flying USA and Wales.
Shujaa’s first game is at 1.20pm (Kenyan time) against South Africa who will be crowned 2016/2017 champions having attained an unassailable lead.
Shujaa have a terrible record against the South Africans who are primed to end the season on a high. A feeble showing against the South Africans could result in a rout for Shujaa, a situation coach Innocent Simiyu is cognizant of.
The youthful coach is under immense pressure following the team’s undesirable performances under his tutelage. He will guide Shujaa against Mike Friday’s USA whose progress in the shorter version of rugby has been admirable and under the Englishman.
USA are currently fifth on overall standing on 114 points and have consistently finished above Kenya since Friday took charge in 2013. The Kenya and USA meeting at 4.04pm will evoke fond memories between Friday and some Shujaa players as the Englishman remains popular in the Kenya Sevens camp.
The last pool assignment for Kenya will be at 7.10pm against 10th ranked Wales. Shujaa require a minimum of two victories in the group stage in order to book a Cup quarter-final berth, which means they have no option other than trampling either USA or South Africa and Wales to make just the their third appearance in Cup quarters this season.
The team has just three senior players owing to injuries and other commitments barring senior players from participating. Their error-laden campaign has seen their fortunes plummet sharply from last season and Kenya Rugby Union hinted at possible changes in the technical bench.
Chairman Richard Omwela said: “We are very worried about our performance in the Sevens World Rugby circuit. I do not know if it’s our strength and conditioning that is lacking or it is purely tactical.
We shall however, get to the cause and rectify. It does not feel right when one season we achieve great things and then falter in the next.” Innocent Simiyu replaced Benjamin Ayimba at the helm beginning this season but has missed by a mile the achievements of his predecessor.