Kenya return to the country from San Francisco, USA this week with their tails between their legs after one of their worst performances in the recent past following their 16th place finish at the 2018 Sevens World Cup.
Shujaa went to California with high hopes given they had reached the semi-finals of the last two World Cups in 2009 and 2013 and were also coming from their best ever season in the World Rugby Sevens Series where they scored over 100 points, having reached two Cup finals.
With that, many expected another semi-final run if not better. However, what was witnessed was anything but. They won only one match, the pre-round of 16 where they came from behind to beat Tonga 19-7, the least ranked team in the tournament.
If that was not worrying, what followed was catastrophic. A dramatic second half collapse saw Shujaa throw away a 26-0 lead, crashing out of contention with a 31-26 round of 16 loss to Scotland.
They had gone ahead through tries from Collins Injera, Nelson Oyoo, William Ambak and Jeff Oluoch, a quarter-final date looking secure.
But in the final four minutes, Herman Humwa’s lose pass was intercepted by Scotland captain Scott Riddel who scored his side’s second try following a solo effort by Harvey Elms who had touched down for the opener.
It turned from bad to worse when two yellow cards reduced Kenya to five men as Sammy Oliech and Samuel Ngethe were sent off for two infringements.
The numerical disadvantage left a gaping hole in Shujaa’s defence, which Scotland took advantage of to end Kenya’s dream, leaving them shellshocked.
That second half collapse brought into question Kenya’s mental strength, with many pointing at the team’s recent off field problems as having contributed to the loss.
Just before the World Cup, head coach Innocent Simiyu was sacked in the wake of the Brand Kenya sponsorship fiasco which saw players conceal the organisation’s logo in protest over unpaid dues in Paris last month but the tactician was reinstated a few days later after the intervention of Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa.
This is said to have disrupted the team’s preparations and even though Kenyans expected more, the players seem not to have been in the right frame of mind.
This poor show was witnessed in subsequent meaningless matches Shujaa played at the World Cup, losing to Ireland and Samoa before the 14-26 reverse against Japan to finish 16th, above only Chile, Hong Kong, Uganda, Uruguay, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe and Jamaica, all non-core teams in the World Sevens Series.
Meanwhile, the hunger to play with the big boys in the National Sevens Series Division One saw Kisii RFC crowned Prisloo Sevens Division Two champions, consequently earning promotion to the top tier in the next circuit Sepetu Sevens in Eldoret.
“We needed to play in Division One because we feel that is where we should be as we have very fast players,” said Kisii coach George Sagini whose team beat Egerton Wasps 5-0 in a tightly-contested final at Nakuru Athletics Club on Sunday.