NAIROBI, November 27 – The national sevens team has the chance to exact revenge in their first match of the 2008/2009 International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series when they face hosts and Pool B rivals Arabian Gulf in Dubai on Friday morning.,
Benjamin Ayimba’s charges suffered a shock 10-7 defeat to the Middle East team in the Shield semi final of the same tournament two years ago and will want to exorcise the demons of that loss at the spectacular Sevens stadium which will stage next year’s Rugby World Cup Sevens.
Scotland will be next up for the Tusker Safari Sevens champions and could also be the victims of a backlash following their 17-5 win over Kenya at the London leg of the 2007/2008 IRB Series.
Kenya has a poor record against the Scots in Dubai to whom they have lost to twice in 1999 and 2005, both losses coming in the bowl competition and Ayimba will be hoping his team will be third time lucky in the desert.
Last season’s semi finalists South Africa also lie in wait for Kenya in what would be the fourth Dubai meeting and 18th overall between both African nations.
The national sevens team ran the Springboks close in last year’s main cup quarter final before agonizingly losing 17-15 in a match which Kenya remained competitive throughout.
Kenya will be buoyed by the absence of several key Bok players such as second all time sevens try scorer Fabian Juries, flamboyant flanker Kabamba Floors and Neil Powell who is injured.
If Kenya makes it to the main cup quarter finals on Saturday they are likely to face either defending series and Dubai champions New Zealand or their trans-Tasman rivals Australia.
Nakuru duo Vincent Mose and Cyprian Shimenga are in line to make their IRB Sevens series debut for Kenya, while Victor Oduor, Wilson K’Opondo and Ben Nyambu are back in national colours.
Innocent Simiyu, Allan Onyango and Biko Adema pulled out of the tour due to personal commitments.
Dennis Mwanja who scored 18 tries for Kenya last season is also absent after failing to recover from a knee injury picked up in last month’s World Cup qualifiers in Tunisia.
After Dubai, the action shifts to the South African city of George where Kenya have a much tougher assignment in Pool D which has Samoa, who won the Lonon leg of the 2007/2008 series, the fast improving Wales and the unpredictable Portugal.
Pool A: New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Zimbabwe
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, Scotland, Arabian Gulf
Pool C: Samoa, Argentina, France, Georgia
Pool D: Fiji, England, United States, Portugal