Kenyans are in for another painful view of the national sevens side after head coach Paul ‘Pau’ Murunga made true his promise of giving youth a chance by including five debutants in his squad for the third and fourth legs of the 2018/19 World Sevens Series in Sydney, Australia and Hamilton, New Zealand yesterday.
Murunga had already handed four youngsters an opportunity in the opening two legs in Dubai and Cape Town but they found the going tough, recording one of the worst performance ever seen from Shujaa.
That led to calls for the return of senior players who have been synonymous with the team’s recent success but with a contract dispute between Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and the big names far from over, Murunga had no choice.
Former Kenya Under 19 captain Harold Anduvate is one of five new call-ups alongside Brian Wandera, Eliakim Kichoi, William Reeve and Cyprian Kuto.
To show just how inexperienced the squad is, Murunga has handed the armband to Jacob Ojee to be deputised by Michael Wanjala in place of Eden Agero and Dennis Ombachi who have been dropped.
“Ojee is able to lead the team. This has been noted enough times during our training sessions where he ensures all players communicate.
His experience in the wing in the 15s version of the game as well as in the sevens is also very key,” Murunga said of his decision to select the two, who were introduced in the Shujaa set up in the 2014/15 season by former tacticians Paul Treu and Felix Ochieng.
Alongside the returning Bush Mwale and Cyprian Kuto, Ojee and Wanjala are the players Murunga will be relying on for experience and it will be interesting to see how they cope after the poor performance in Dubai and Cape Town left Shujaa 14th on the 16-team table with just four points.
“We have already exposed five of the players into World Series in the last two legs and we are now having more. As a coach, we have worked on defence, the attack is looking good so it is up to me to build a new breed of players,” said Murunga.
Prospects of seeing the senior players return to the fold soon also look dim as KRU insist they do not have the money to sustain the same contracts as last season while the former want nothing less.
“We told the playing unit we do not have funds to pay those salaries. We cannot afford it but they want the same salary. The conversation has been difficult,” said KRU boss Richar Omwela.
Kenya begins their campaign in Sydney against South Africa before taking on Scotland and France at the group stage on January 26.