National Sevens rugby team, Shujaa open Vancouver Sevens title hunt at the BC Place Stadium against the defending champs Fiji at 8.30pm Saturday.
The sixth round of the HSBC World Sevens Series floats up memories for Kenya in Canada having met Fiji in pool rounds and in the cup final last season. Fiji was the better side on March 12, 2018 capitalising on a 24-21 pool day win to deny Kenya gold in Canada.
Shujaa last played Fiji in Cape Town Sevens on Dec 8 where Kenya lost 7-38, a second straight loss to Fiji after a 12-43 loss in Dubai where the new-look Shujaa lost all matches.
A reprieve for Shujaa will have to count on last weekend’s Las Vegas lessons and hunt two pool wins for first main cup quarter finals place.
The opener match to serve as their first meeting this year will be a do-or-die for Shujaa being at par with Fiji last weekend, both team having managed only two wins. Kenya will enjoy the services of fly half Johnstone Olindi and forward Shadon Munoko who joined the team after the Vegas leg where Kenya was eliminated by Spain (24-7) in the Challenge Trophy quarter-finals.
In Vegas, Kenya lost to USA, France and Spain while Fiji lost to Australia, New Zealand and England. Last season the two sides met eight times where Kenya won two encounters as Fiji bagged six.
Fiji, the defending champions have won five legs and have already managed to win two gold in Cape Town and Hamilton. They ably defended Hamilton and are left with four more tournaments to defend.
The second clash will be against improved Samoa at 12.30am Sunday and a final against the hosts Canada at 3.40am on Sunday to conclude Pool B competition. Samoa under coach Gordon Tietjens attempted a first cup final hunt last weekend to bag silver and will be motivated to make another appearance having tasted the finals stage.
Samoa had managed to defensively control the match and avoided contact game to have an edge over the opponents to win four matches in a row to lastly taste defeat in the finals whereby USA savoured a first title in their fifth consecutive attempt.
Kenya lastly played Samoa on July 22, 2018 where Samoa denied Kenya a perfect four wins in-a-row against them in 2018.
Canada as the hosts will also not be a task for Shujaa having won their first meeting, a 24-14 Sydney sevens pool match win.
Two pool wins will automatically guarantee Shujaa a place in the cup quarters where they will meet Pool C rivals led by New Zealand, Australia, Spain and France.
Shujaa will wrap up the America tour with the knock-out stages on Sunday and Monday respectively where Kenya will hope for a gain on the immediate log rivals France, separated by eight points.
Shujaa in Vegas managed five points as France just like Japan lost all matches for a single point each.
Eleventh-placed Canada is also within Kenya’s reach (11 points adrift) should Kenya feature in the cup semis whilst the hosts miss out of the main cup intention.