NAIROBI, February 24 – After being overlooked by previous coaches, Impala RFC utility player Sammy Oliech has been handed his HSBC Sevens World Series debut ahead of the Las Vegas and Vancouver legs.
Other notable inclusion in the 12-man squad named on Wednesday by head coach Benjamin Ayimba is Kenya’s hero at the Africa Olympic qualifier, Dennis Ombachi who returns for the first time this season when the series enters the fifth and sixth rounds.
Homeboyz RFC pair of fly-half Augustine Lugonzo and winger Leonard Mugaisi are the other returnees as Ayimba made four changes from the squad that reached the Plate final in Sydney, Australia.
Ayimba who is building a formidable team for the Rio Olympic Games, believes Oliech is a game changer and will enable them maintain their consistency of going past the group stages.
“Oliech has never been given a chance and I think he is one of the players who are game winners so I’m expecting a lot from him. He is a good player and he understands the game so it’s upon him to go out there and show the world what he can do.”
“We are happy Ombachi is back to his fitness, I’m sure he will play his role and we will get results out of his good play. Anybody who comes in has to show his value,” Ayimba stated.
Oliech who has featured for the national 15s team believes he has the potential to inspire Kenya to a good performance as he eyes the Olympic selection where the shorter version of the game will be making its debut.
“I have been training for quite a while and I feel my hard work has finally paid off, I want to go out there and show people what I can do. The new players who have come on like Nelson Oyoo have set the bar high so I’m looking at matching his performance or even go beyond it,” Oliech told Capital Sport.
On his part, Ombachi who has been out of the circuit for almost eight months said his uphill task will be to catch up with the rest.
“I’m fit enough to play and given a chance I will give it my best as I have always done. We want to better the performance of the last four legs,” Ombachi who is nicknamed ‘Ghost worker’ said.
Skipper Andrew Amonde is certain the team will repeat Cape Town performance where they stormed the Main Cup semi-finals and if possible lift their first Cup title ever.
“We expect nothing less than improvement. We are aiming to reach the Cup final or semi at worse and I’m sure it’s possible because we have played against most of the top teams. We are pleased to have Ombachi back and Oliech making his debut, he is experienced and it’s my hope he will adapt quickly and play well,” Amonde outlined.
Shujaa who are drawn in a relatively fair Pool A in Las Vegas 7s alongside titans New Zealand, Portugal and newcomers Russia will be banking on their massive fan base from Kenyans living in United States of America to improve on their eighth spot.
Ayimba identified the All Blacks as the main threat but called on his charges not to downplay Portugal and Russia as they will be out to pull an upset.
“We will be ruthless against anyone we meet especially the opening two games against Russia and Portugal because they will not come easy. The last time we played New Zealand the results were not pleasing so we need to pull up our socks in order to top the pool.
“Every team is beatable but you never know how a team will turn up,” Ayimba explained.
The team departs for USA on Sunday to compete in the fifth round that takes place on the weekend of March 4-6 before travelling to the new venue in Canada a week later.
Squad to Las Vegas and Vancouver:
Andrew Amonde (KCB, Captain), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Oscar Ouma (Top Fry Nakuru), Humphrey Kayange (Mwamba), Augustine Lugonzo (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Biko Adema (Nondescripts), William Ambaka (Kenya Harlequin), Oscar Ayodi (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Dennis Ombachi (Mwamba), Billy Odhiambo (Pan Africa Strathmore Leos), Leonard Mugaisi (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Samuel Oliech (Resolution Impala Saracens) Non travelling reserves Eden Agero (Kenya Harlequin), Samuel Motari (Resolution Impala Saracens), Robert Aringo (Resolution Impala Saracens)