NAIROBI, Kenya, November 17- Kenya heads out for the opening 2011/2012 HSBC Sevens World Series in Gold Coast, Australia on Friday with an element of the unknown after head coach Mitch Ocholla named four debutantes to the travelling party.
It will be the first time since 2006 for the team to embark on the elite rugby sevens circuit without their iconic former captain, top try scorer and most capped player, Humphrey Kayange, who quit the team to further his studies at UK’s Bristol Universities.
“His shoes are too big to feel but I believe the selectors chose the best in the country and I have faith with the guys that have been chosen that we will perform to the best of their abilities.
“We are going to win; with the bonus structure we have being among the top ten does not count. The incentive that has been pushed through means we have to way higher, we are talking about top five, that is our target,” Sydney Ashioya, who has been handed the armband for a second stint since 2006 said on Thursday when the squad was named.
Following the $2.9m (Sh290m) sponsorship deal with national carrier, Kenya Airways, Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) for the first time announced the names of the 18 players who will be contracted to play for the team through out the campaign as well as the 12 who will feature in the opening HSBC leg.
Seven fresh faces made the list of contracted players namely, Isaiah Moseti, Christopher Asego, Michael Agevi, a younger brother of Kayange, Dennis Ombachi, Tony Onyango, Philip Wamae, and Michael Wanjala.
“We have monitored them in the local circuit and the two international tournaments they featured and we are confident they are up to the task. Yes, the team is a transitional side but we selected them owing to their ability to compete against the best,” head coach, Mitch Ocholla, explained their inclusion.
Moseti, Asego, Agevi, Ombachi and Onyango will have their baptism of fire at the Gold Coast opener where they will face titans New Zealand and Fiji in the group stages after they made the travelling 12 of the opening leg of the HSBC series.
“For me, it’s quite a step-up to make from local rugby to the international circuit but there is something the coaches saw in my play that made them give me this chance. I’m not thinking about the stage, I’m just going there to play my game,” Agevi who stated his intention to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious elder sibling stated.
Among the contracted players, Charles Kanyi, who will make the first leg trip is back on the national team fold after a two year hiatus with Ashioya, William Ambaka, Horace Otieno, Patrice Agunda, Oscar Ouma, Andrew Amonde, Biko Adema, Collins Injera, Benedict Nyambu and Lavin Asego forming the experienced backbone in the side.
Injera, L. Asego, Adema and Nyambu will not be in Friday’s travelling party but according to coach Ocholla, two changes could be made to the opening leg squad after the subsequent Dubai Sevens.
For a series win, each member of the squad will receive a $5,000 (Sh500,000) pay out with $3,000 (Sh300,000) for final appearance with $2,000 (Sh200,000) and $1,000 (Sh100,000) per head set out for semi and quarter-final appearances in addition to monthly salaries under the terms of the KQ sponsorship deal.
KRU chair, Mwangi Muthee told reporters on Thursday a joint account owned by the Union and the airline would be opened to manage the finances of the agreement.
Other benefits of accruing to the players under the sponsorship include free flight to the HSBC World Series as well as comprehensive medical and insurance cover when featuring at the circuit.
“Of course, the passion of the game is the biggest motivating factor but with the bonuses in place, we are obligated to aim not just to show up but win every game that we start,” Ocholla noted.
The team is set to return on December 11 after touring Dubai and South Africa to complete the opening two legs.
AUSTRALIA SQUAD: Sidney Ashioya (Quins/Captain), Isaiah Moseti (Homeboyz), Christopher Asego (Mwamba), Michael Agevi (Mwamba), William Ambaka (Quins), Dennis Ombachi (Mwamba), Tony Onyango (Strathmore), Horace Otieno (Mwamba), Charles Kanyi (Nondies), Patrice Agunda (Quins), Oscar Ouma (Nakuru) and Andrew Amonde (KCB).
CONTRACTED PLAYERS: Sidney Ashioya (Quins/Captain), Isaiah Moseti (Homeboyz), Christopher Asego (Mwamba), Michael Agevi (Mwamba), William Ambaka (Quins), Dennis Ombachi (Mwamba), Tony Onyango (Strathmore), Horace Otieno (Mwamba), Charles Kanyi (Nondies), Patrice Agunda (Quins), Oscar Ouma (Nakuru), Andrew Amonde (KCB), Biko Adema (Nondies), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Benedict Nyambu (Nondies), Philip Wamae (KCB), Lavin Asego (Mwamba) Michael Wanjala (Strathmore).
1. Mitch Ocholla – Head Coach
2. Charles Cardovillis – Assistant Coach
3. John Mbai – Team Manager
4. Newton Ongalo – Assistant Team Manager
5. George Odhiambo – Physiotherapist
6. Geoffrey Kimani – Conditioning Coach