NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 3 – The Kenya Sevens squad heading to the Asian tour of the HSBC Sevens World Series has been dealt a major blow following the withdrawal of inspirational players Willy Ambaka and Dan Sikuta just prior to the team’s departure on Monday morning.
According to the Kenya Rugby Union, the two have pulled out from the squad owing to work and personal commitments, with the Union saying replacements will be announced in due course.
However, according to Rugby Website Raga House, Ambaka remained behind to work on completion of a move to an overseas club while Sikuta might have been prevailed upon by his club Kabras Sugar to remain behind ahead of this weekend’s Kenya Cup semi finals.
Sikuta has been a key figure for Kabras and played an influential role in their weekend 21-18 win over Impala to book a date with Homeboyz RFC in the semi finals on April 8.
Ambaka’s absence will be missed by the team as he has been one of the best performers this season, topping Kenya’s scoring in points and tries. Ambaka has landed 19 tries over the last six legs of the series, making him the ninth overall best try scorer in the series.
The burly and speedy enforcer has earned Kenya 95 of its 563 points this season, ranking 21st in the World Rugby season standings.
The news of the absence of the two comes just as three other impact players in Billy ‘The Kid’ Odhiambo, Leonard Mugaisi and Oscar Ayodi will all miss through injury. Just like Ambaka, Odhiambo has been a key member of the Shujaa squad with 15 tries and 75 points this season.
Shujaa have made it into the Main Cup Quarters only once in the 2016/2017 season at the Cape Town Sevens and heading into Hong Kong, the Innocent Simiyu coached side will hope for a better performance especially after underperforming in the last tour of Las Vegas and Vancouver.
“We are below par in terms of performance. We were expecting to be at 60 points by now but we are at 40. However, we have worked in training and going to the next tour our hope still remains getting at least 10 points in each leg,” Simiyu said prior to the team’s departure for Hong Kong.
Shujaa will tackle series leaders South Africa, Canada and France in group B.
“It is a tough pool with very good teams. No team can be underrated in the series this far and we are going to ensure we at least get to the Main Cup quarters.
In the squad travelling for the tour, Simiyu has handed a debut to Impala’s Derrick Mayer while Dennis Ombachi returns to the side after close to a year.
“The team has a blend of old and new blood. It is great to have Ombachi back because he brings in some new dynamics on how he plays with high balls and he increases our chances of playing forward and scoring,” Ombachi said of his squad.
Kenya Sevens squad
Sammy Oliech, Eden Agero, Augustine Lugonzo, Bush Mwale, Frank Wanyama, Dennis Ombachi, Andrew Amonde, Derrick Mayar, Brian Tanga, Nelson Oyoo Collins Injera.