NAIROBI, Kenya, March 31 – The national sevens rugby team arrived in Adelaide, on Tuesday looking to build on their sterling performance in Hong Kong Sevens last weekend where they reached main cup semifinals.Geoffrey Kimani, the sprints coach jetted out on Sunday morning to go join the team in Australia. Oscar Osir, the team manager was however left behind and was on the bench for the Scorpion’s Franchise.
Osir summarized Kenya’s performance in Hong Kong where the team reached their third semi-final this season in the IRB Sevens World Series by beating New Zealand 10-7 – for only the second time – before losing to the eventual winners Fiji. “It was a very mature performance by the team which could have lost to Fiji because of fatigue after a hard-fought quarter final with New Zealand,” Osir observed.
The former Kenya Sevens captain said that Fiji took advantage of Kenya’s missed tackles to win. “Fiji stepped up their game which was the difference. It is difficult to play against a Fiji team which has no big names,” Osir acknowledged.
Against New Zealand, Osir attributed the win to good and solid defence coupled with an ability to read the opponents. “We can now look at the opponents and decide on a game plan. It has reached a point where Kenya is taking the game to the opponents rather than reacting to what they do,” Osir added.
In assessing the player’s performance in Hong Kong, the team manager picked out Collins Injera who always exerted pressure on the opponents. Lavin Asego for pin point kicks and good ball distribution and ofcourse Humphrey Kayange for often breaking through the line and leading from the front. Osir also noted the chemistry between Asego, Injera and Kayange to be quite effective.
Former join captain Innocent Simiyu is back to the groove. Fielded in an unfamiliar position of hooker against New Zealand, Simiyu made the difference. Osir concluded that the mental block that Kenya suffered sometime back was slowly being overcome.
Kenya kicks off the three-day Adelaide Sevens tournament against Japan in a new format which is hoped to allow the players to have adequate rest between matches.
There are eight matches on the opening day with the rest of the Pool stages ending on Saturday. Sunday is reserved for the knock-out stage. It is Kenya who will also end the Pool Stage with an African derby against South Africa. South Africa won in Adelaide last year and were runners up to Fiji in Hong Kong.
Some interesting pairings are on the offing. England have been drawn in Pool A where they face a team that knocked them out for the fifth Rugby World Cup Sevens in Dubai. Samoa beat England 31-26 in extra time in the cup quarter final in Dubai. Hosts Australia have also been drawn in this Pool.
Fiji and France who also met at the Pool stage in Dubai have been paired in Pool B which also has Scotland and San Diego winners Argentina.
Another re-match is in Pool C where New Zealand face Wales. The teams met in the quarter final of the RWC Sevens with Wales – the eventual winners in Dubai – prevailing 15-14.
Squad: Humphrey Kayange (captain), Lavin Asego, Victor Oduor, Horace Owiti, Collins Injera (Mwamba), Wilson Kopondo (Mean Machine), Joshua Gathumbi (Strathmore University), Allan Onyango, Sidney Ashioya (Kenya Harlequin FC), Gibson Weru (Nakuru RFC, vice captain), Innocent Simiyu (Impala), Benedict Nyambu (Nondescripts RUFC).
Officials: Benjamin Ayimba (coach), Felix Ochieng (assistant coach), Oscar Osir (team manager), George Odhiambo (physiotherapist), Geoffrey Kimani (sprints coach).
Pool A: England, Samoa, Australia, Portugal.
Pool B: Argentina, Fiji, France, Scotland.
Pool C: New Zealand USA, Wales, Tonga.
Pool D: South Africa, Kenya, Cook Islands, Japan.
April 3: Kenya v Japan (5.30), South Africa v Cook Islands (5.52), USA v Tonga (6.14), New Zealand v Wales (6.36), Fiji v Scotland (6.58), Argentina v France (7.20), Samoa v Portugal (7.42), England v Australia (8.04).
April 4: New Zealand v Tonga (12.15), USA v Wales (12.37), England v Portugal (12.59), Samoa v Australia (13.21), Argentina v Scotland (13.43), Fiji v France (14.05), South Africa v Japan (14.27), Kenya v Cook Islands (14.49), Wales v Tonga (15.26), Australia v Portugal (15.48), France v Scotland (16.10), Cook Islands v Japan (16.32), England v Samoa (17.04), Argentina v Fiji (17.26), New Zealand v USA (17.48), South Africa v Kenya (18.10).
April 5; Bowl quarter finals: A3 v B4 (10.38), D3 v C4 (11.00), C3 v D4 (11.22), B3 v A4 (11.44); Cup quarter finals: A1 v B2 (12.06), D1 v C2 (12.28), C1 v D2 (12.50), B1 v A2 (13.12)