NAIROBI, Kenya, November 2- National head coach, Mitch Ocholla included three call-ups in the squad named on Wednesday for the upcoming Safaricom Sevens international tournament as more visiting sides checked in the country for the event.
Ocholla who is preparing to defend the title the hosts have won for the past two editions included debutants Kenya Commercial Bank RFC player Philip Wamae, Nakuru’s Edwin Makori and Strathmore’s Felix Ayange in his ten-man side.
Regulars Sidney Ashioya (captain), Naftali Bondo and Willy Ambaka of Kenya Harlequins, Mwamba RFC pair Collins Injera (vice-captain) and Horace Otieno, Bryan Nyikuli (Homeboyz) and Biko Adema (Nondescripts) completes the side.
“The likes of Mike Agevi who are out through injury and the players who will feature in the Confederations of Africa Rugby tournament after this are missing but I believe the team is well balanced,” Ocholla said after unveiling his team.
Kenya will face a stern test without their former long serving captain, Humphrey Kayange who will nonetheless feature for one of their rivals for the crown, British side Bristol University after joining the institution to further his studies.
“First of all, is to wish him well. He has been the cornerstone for Kenya rugby sevens for a long time, going top of the rankings in the world but time has come for him to pursue his latest chapter in life.
“I always say there is a Humphrey Kayange bubbling down under and we will get him sooner rather than later but his absence will truly be felt,” Ocholla said of the player who has scored 54 tries in 30 appearances for the team.
On the prospect of fielding against their former skipper as well as the Samoan team marshalled by the 2010 IRB World Series player of the year Mikaele Pesamimo in addition to the Samurais who have two Fijian internationals, Ocholla exuded confidence his side would be up to the challenge.
“We don’t plan to fail but we know the pressure is definitely on. But being a world class side and professionalism coming in, it’s up to settle the battles on the pitch of which we need the best from the players and management.”
Speaking at a function where the team received $20,000 (Sh2m) from Innscor Kenya, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) chairman Mwangi Muthee pressed the side to deliver the hat-trick beginning Friday.
“We have laid the platform for them but I have no doubt in mind that Kenya is going to defend her Cup. We are professionalizing its team and this weekend would be an ideal time to begin testing the waters.
“There are big teams coming. Samoa are already here with the highest try scorer in the 2010 World Series, we have Fijians, Americans and British teams and although we are not putting any pressure of the team, we want them to go out there and express themselves,” Muthee rallied.
He added: “It’s high time we took this team to the level it deserves, at the top so that we can give our sponsors true value.”
French side Grenoble, Kiwi side Auckland and British Army sides were scheduled to arrive Wednesday after Samoa, US team Belmont and Samurai made up mainly of Fijians checked-in a day earlier.
The draw will be conducted Thursday as the chairman urged fans to turn up in their numbers at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium where the 33rd edition of the annual affair will be staged for the first time.
Muthee assured supporters that Kenya Police and other agents had beefed up security ahead of the three-day tourney following fears raised by reports of reprisals by Somali insurgent group, Al-Shabaab, who have been blamed for three grenade attacks in a week including two blasts that rocked the Capital within 24 hours.
“We were not sure whether all invited teams would honour their appearance but I can confirmed all teams we set out to call will be here so the draw will be conducted tomorrow (Thursday).
“Do not show any fear when coming to support your team, security is our responsibility. We have worked very closely with the Kenya Police to ensure that everything is taken care off,” Muthee assured.
Sarah Kimotho, Innscor, the brand holder of Galitos fast food franchise in Kenya marketing manager Sarah Kimotho called on the team to repay the faith bestowed on them by delivering the title.
“We started off ten years ago and our interest is mainly we know where Kenyan rugby can get. We want to ensure we heighten the experience and expect them to win, there are no to ways about it,” she continued.
1 Sidney Ashioya (Quins/Captain)
2. Collins Injera (Mwamba)
3. Willy Ambaka (Quins)
4. Edwin Makori (Nakuru)
5. Phil Wamae (KCB)
6. Biko Adema (Nondies)
7. Bryan Nyikuli (Homeboyz)
8. Horace Otieno (Mwamba)
9. Naftali Bondo (Quins)
10. Felix Ayange (Strathmore)
11. Mike Agevi (Mwamba)
12. Victor Oduor (Quins)