NAIROBI, October 3 – National sevens rugby coach Benjamin Ayimba believes his team will have to maintain their high standards in the Africa Zone qualifiers of the Rugby World Cup Sevens scheduled for Tunisia at the tail end of this month.,
Ayimba told Capital Sport on Friday that he expects other African countries to raise their game against Kenya following their impressive performances in the 2007/2008 International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series and clinching this year’s Tusker Safari Sevens title.
“It’s going to be tough. Everyone is looking to beat us especially after how we performed this year,” said Ayimba.
Kenya will be competing with 14 other countries for the three World Cup places reserved for the continent.
Some of the countries expected to take part include Uganda, Morocco, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Senegal, Madagascar, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Nigeria, Botswana and Swaziland.
South Africa have already qualified for the tournament by virtue of reaching the quarter finals in 2005.
Ayimba also downplayed the absence of captain Innocent Simiyu and fellow stalwart Lavin Asego from the team’s fisrt training session on Wednesday at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA) grounds.
“Both players had work commitments which is clearly understandable but its not something were worried about,” said Ayimba.
“If a situation arises that prevents them from travelling, we have players who are capable of replacing them,” he added.
The presence of Kenya Harlequins utility back Sidney Ashioya and Nakuru’s Gibson Weru at the session was a welcome sight with both players coming back from long term injuries.
“Having Weru and Ashioya increases the depth of our squad because both are quality players,” said Ayimba.
The players were taken through a base test where their energy levels and general conditioning were assessed after a physically gruelling season for both club and country.
Next year’s World Cup in Dubai will be the fifth edition of the showpiece event and will take place on March 5-7 at a purpose built stadium aptly named ‘The Sevens.’
Meanwhile, Ayimba has expressed delight with the pooling of the opening IRB 2008-09 tourney in Dubai.
Kenya has been grouped with South Africa, Scotland and hosts Arabian Gulf in Pool B of the opening leg of the which will be held on November 28-29.
“Our pool is quite tolerable. I’m glad were not in any of the other pools because there all so tough and I believe we can go all the way this time,” said Ayimba.
“We will be taking each tournament as it comes and not push ourselves to hard because we want to be at our best for the World Cup,” he added.
South Africa knocked Kenya out of the main cup competition with a narrow 17-15 in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament.