NAIROBI, October 22 – Gibson Weru and Ben Nyambu have been recalled to the national sevens rugby team that will take part in the Africa Zone Rugby World Cup Sevens qualifiers in Tunisia at the end of this month.
The duo’s inclusion in the team on Wednesday was part of four changes made to the side which won this year’s Tusker Safari Sevens in June.
Both players replace Joshua Gathumbi, who is a non travelling reserve and Victor Oduor respectively while Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) forward and newly appointed vice captain Dennis Mwanja returns to the national fold in place of Victor Sudi.
Naftali Bondo comes in for his Impala team mate Moses Mwole and there is also a place for Innocent Simiyu who missed the Mombasa leg of the national sevens circuit.
Assistant coach Felix Ochieng explained the selection criteria saying that the management considered current form and fitness of players.
“The players who took part in the Safari Sevens were initially considered for selection because we didn’t have time to consider new blood due to the timing of the sevens circuit and the qualifiers,” said Ochieng.
“The head coach and myself (Ochieng) looked at fitness and conditioning of the players as well as player form in various local tournaments,” he added.
Ochieng explained that selecting the final 12 out of the 24 players in camp was a difficult since all of the players were talented and it was a big ask choosing between two players in the same position.
Ochieng added that they are still assessing the fitness of some of the players ahead of their departure on Monday and will make changes if they are forced to do so.
“We have players who are on a physical and injury audit and with the final fitness test today (Wednesday) the composition of the team might change because we want to travel with a team that is one hundred percent fit,” said Ochieng.
Dennis Mwanja and Impala’s Brian Nyikuli are the players whose fitness will be assessed after they sustained injuries in Mombasa last weekend.
Head coach Benjamin Ayimba is confident that Kenya will qualify for its third World Cup and that they will use the qualifiers to entrench their position as one of the leading sevens nations in Africa.
“We’re going there all guns blazing. If those countries don’t bring their game we will try and blast them as much as we can because we want to make a statement in Africa because other than South Africa we do not have much competition,” said Ayimba.
Asked if being labelled top seeds puts more pressure on the team, Ayimba stated that it has not been playing on their minds and that they will travel to North Africa knowing that they have a job to do.
“We already have our work cut out for us and we just want to get everything in order before the IRB series starts,” said Ayimba.
“Nonetheless, we are taking everyone seriously because they all want to beat us but we are not worried,” he added.
Kenya are in Pool A with Morocco and Ivory Coast. The four pool winners will head into the semi finals with the finalists and winner of the third place play off qualifying for the World Cup which will be held in Dubai next month.
Humphrey Khayange (Mwamba,Captain), Allan Onyango (Kenya Harlequins), Dennis Mwanja (KCB,V. Captain), Brian Nyikuli (Impala), Ben Nyambu (Nondies), Naftali Bondo (Impala), Lavin Asego (Mwamba), Biko Adema (Nondies), Innocent Simiyu (Impala), Horace Owiti (Mwamba), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Gibson Weru (Nakuru)
Pool A: Kenya, Morocco, Ivory Coast
Pool B: Tunisia, Senegal, Zambia
Pool C: Zimbabwe, Madagacar, Botswana, Nigeria
Pool D: Uganda, Namibia, Cameroon, Swaziland