Rugby Rugby

Lionesses determined to break South Africa jinx

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Kenya Lionesses captain Philadelphia Olando in action against South Africa in a past KPL match. Photo/COURTESY

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 13 – Having failed to stop big wigs South Africa in the past three outings, the Kenya Lionesses have vowed to get one over the top seed side when the Africa Cup Sevens cum 2018 World Cup Qualifier gets underway this weekend in Tunisia.

South Africa have been dominant in the continent, winning the tournament for record five-times with four of them being back-to-back.

The Lionesses, who are the second most ranked team in Africa, have reached three consecutive finals of the Africa Cup Sevens tournament but they have lost all of them to South Africa.

However, the last time the two sides met at the same tourney in 2016, the Lionesses nearly caused an upset to South Africa when they led at some point in the final before losing by a late try to finish second after the match ended 22-17.

Kenya Lionesses posing for a team Photo/Photo/KRU

The Kenya Lionesses team say it will be banking on that result to get one over South Africa since they have polished on their weakness during their intensive 11 weeks training.

Head coach Kevin Wambua has handed debut to rookie Judith Auma while retaining most of the seasoned players in the team that will be captained by Philadelphia Olando.

“If you look at the scores for the past two seasons against South Africa we have been reducing the deficits. If you look at last year’s Africa Cup we lost that game in the last minute, we were winning it, but what this has done to us is that it has given my team believe that they can finally break the jinx,” Wambua said while naming the travelling squad of 12 on Wednesday at the RFUEA Ground.

“We have done our homework well, we have been working hard for the past 11 weeks and we have polished areas that let us down last year. There is a positive vibe and they (players) are ready to take the game to South Africa,” the coach added.

National Women 7s team captain Philadelphia Olando and Catherine Abilla in training. Photo/RAYMOND MAKHAYA

Team Captain Olando, who has been with the team all along echoed the coach’s sentiments, saying their sights are focused on clinching the World Cup slot.

“I have believe in my team and I have faith South Africa will not be a threat to us this time because we have worked hard for them.  At the last tournament in Zimbabwe they defeated us with only one try so I believe all that is going to change. The young new blood Judith is going to give us was we need,” Olando, who turns out for KCB RFC noted.

However, to make the mouthwatering duel against South Africa happen, Kenya will be looking to first maneuver through Group B where they are drawn with Zimbabwe, Senegal and Madagascar and Wambua has disclosed that it is not an easy pool as many think.

“It’s not an easy pool, it’s a World Cup qualifier and I do believe that all the eight teams participating in this tournament want to go to the World Cup. For us we know we have to win every game because if you look at the tournament there is going to be seeding so that means we have to win and win by a big margin so that at the end of the day we top the pool,” Wambua asserted.

Group A comprises of power house South Africa, Uganda, Morocco and hosts Tunisia.

-Four changes-

Kenya 7s Lionesses captain, Catherine Abilla, during the team’s training ahead of departure for Dublin for the World Series qualifiers. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Wambua has made four changes to the side that reached the Main Cup quarterfinal at the Women’s Sevens World Series qualifiers in Hong Kong in April with Catherine Abilla and Linet Moraa relegated to non travelling reserves while Irene Otieno and Prisca Nyerere were not included.

Their absence paves way for Rachael Mbogo to make her first appearance since Rio 2016 while star Janet Okello and Cynthia Camila make their first appearance since December’s Dubai Sevens.

“Four changes bring a lot of energy to the team because if you look how we selected our squad, we went for players who were on form and those who achieved our target. We are lucky to have Janet Okello back who is arguably one of the best players not only in Kenya but also in Africa,” Wambua noted.

“Having her (Janet) in the team is a big morale in this competition. Judith Auma is making her first appearance and she deserves it because she has really worked hard since she began training. We have been monitoring her progress since she joined the team last year and she is going to give us the edge we need in terms of energy,” the coach said.

Kenya Lionesses squad to Africa Cup 7s

Philadelphia Olando (Captain), Sheila Chajira (Vice Captain), Judith Auma (Debut), Sinaida Aura, Celestine Masinde, Cynthia Camila, Doreen Remour, Janet Okello, Grace Adhiambo, Rachael Mbogo, Janet Owino, Stacy Awuor.

Non Travelling Reserves: Catherine Abilla, Diana Awino, Linet Moraa.

Management: Kevin Wambua (Head Coach), Camilyne Oyuayo (Team Manager), Ben Mahinda ( Physio), Sam Njogu ( S&C )

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