Shujaa and Homeboyz RFC begin their hunt for the Dubai Sevens title this morning, hoping to bring back the smile on Kenyans’ faces after the Lionesses started on the wrong footing yesterday.
The Lionesses lost all their group matches, going down 34-7 to New Zealand, 27-12 to Ireland before a 19-0 reverse to Russia put paid to their chances of fighting for the Main Cup. That leaves Shujaa and Homeboyz, an invitational team just like Lionesses, as Kenya’s hope.
Shujaa will open their campaign against Scotland at 8.44am today before a clash with France at 11.44am and close Pool B competition against Fiji at 6.06pm in the 16-team tournament at the Dubai Sevens Stadium.
It will be the first major assignment for new coach Paul Murunga who has a tough task of replicating or bettering his predecessor Innocent Simiyu’s record of 104 points achieved last season.
Under Simiyu, Kenya finished eighth and went past the 100-point mark for the first time in their history, besides reaching two Cup finals in Vancouver and Hong Kong, losing to Fiji on both occasions. It leaves Murunga with his work cut out as the rugby-mad Kenyans are demanding immediate results.
Already, there has been cause for worry after Murunga named an inexperienced squad for the Dubai and Cape Town assignments, bereft of the core of the players who have made Kenya proud over the years.
Captain Dennis Ombachi, Eden Agero and Jeffrey Oluoch are the only vastly-experienced players in Dubai with Leonard Mugaisi, Cyprian Kuto and Herman Humwa the other names who featured modestly last season.
Collins Injera, former skipper Andrew Amonde, William Ambaka, Billy Odhiambo, Nelson Oyoo and ‘Big Wheels’ Oscar Ouma are among the notable names who will not be in Dubai, most of them excluded having featured for Simbas (Kenya 15s) in their unsuccessful quest for a 2019 Rugby World Cup place via the repechage in France last week
Novices in squad
Instead, it will be novices Daniel Taabu, Johnstone Olindi, Brian Wahinya, Samuel Motari and Alvin Otieno taking their places, heightening the anxiety among Kenyans.
Shujaa reached the Cup quarter-finals Dubai last season, losing 14-12 to New Zealand and are seeking the same if not better this weekend.
Meanwhile, local national sevens champions Homeboyz will kick start their maiden Dubai Sevens international men’s tier two tournament against South Africa’s Sevens Academy at 1pm, the face Germany at 3.40pm before closing the day with a 6pm tie over Kuban.