Kenya have paid dearly for their underperformance in Dubai after they were paired with Fiji, England and France for the second leg of the 2018/19 World Rugby Series in Cape Town, South Africa this weekend.
Shujaa finished second from bottom in the 16-team tournament in Dubai, gaining just one point after losing all their five matches and they will have to turn it around quickly to avoid another thrashing in Cape Town.
For a team with ambitions of repeating last season’s heroics where they gained 104 points, the Dubai performance left a bitter taste in the mouths of most Kenyans and new coach Paul Murunga has his work cut out.
Kenya reached the Cup quarters in Dubai last season but found the going tough this time, losing 14-35 to Scotland, 17-21 to France and 12-43 to Fiji in the group phase before identical 26-19 losses to Spain and Japan in the Challenge Trophy quarters and 13th place semi-final respectively.
Shujaa were expected to struggle after Murungu selected a team of novices for the opening two legs with only captain Dennis Ombachi, Eden Agero and Jeffrey Oluoch the only the experienced players in the group. However, they were not expected to be thrashed as they did in Dubai.
They struggled to match the know-how and rhythm of their more experienced opponents and it will not be a surprise if they receive another thrashing in Cape Town since the big names who were omitted from the squad are still not available.
Collins Injera, former skipper Andrew Amonde, William Ambaka, Billy Odhiambo, Nelson Oyoo and ‘Big Wheels’ Oscar Ouma are among the notable names who are missing as most of them were 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.
Murungu will hope that his young charges can improve before he summons the main stays for the third leg in Hamilton, New Zealand next month.