NAIROBI, Kenya, February 16- For the first time in the 2011/2012 IRB World Sevens Series, the national team made a triumphant return from a series tour after their Bowl and Plate winning performances in Wellington and Las Vegas legs.
Sponsors Kenya Airways treated the side that delayed their arrival by a day after they missed their London connection flight home to a sumptuous breakfast as the feel good factor drifted back to the game after a nightmare start to the series.
In the midst of the smiles, high fives and glowing words of praise ravaged on the squad, it was not lost to those present that the resounding success of the latest tour was embedded on the fielding of seasoned campaigners.
Team captain, Sydney Ashioya, one of the bedrocks of the side since 2006 when Kenya started her ascent in the IRB Sevens Series, took the opportunity to once again call on sustained investment in developing the side.
“We need to blend our youth and experienced players much faster and in a better way because if we keep relying on the old dogs, once they leave we get the situation we were in the first two tournaments.
“We need young players coming through to learn from the old guys the tricks they have and be able to build a more consistent side instead of relying on two or three guys. We need to ensure we can put out 12 good players at any time,” Ashioya stated.
His shifted his focus on the forthcoming expanded Hong Kong Sevens that will feature 24 sides as opposed to 12 next month with Kenya keen on a performance that will go a long way in preserving her status as one of the core sides of the tournament when the International Rugby Board (IRB) makes the review.
“We will still play the six games we play in any tournament. It might be a bit different since they are thinking of increasing the core teams so it will be a bit more competitive and it will be a real challenge that we want to sit down and plan.
“Going forward, we are bracing ourselves for a tough tournament, it will be much harder than where we are coming from but we are intent on producing a similar performance,” the captain who scored four tries in the Hertz Sevens in Wellington where Kenya beat Australia 12-7 in the Bowl Final said.
The team moved on to register their first Main Cup quarter final appearance before beating Argentina 21-7 in the Plate final following a 14-19 loss to Samoa in the last eight.
“A lot more experienced hands travelled in the team and it was much easier to get the systems going and going forward, it is my hope we shall have the same team so that we can consolidate the gains we made,” he explained.
Ashioya was among the 12 players who returned on Wednesday with iconic all time leading try scorer, Humphrey Kayange who marked his return to the side for the last two legs travelling to join Bristol University for his Masters.
South Africa based David Ambuya also returned to his institution with head coach, Mitch Ocholla saying Kenya Rugby Union would make all effort to ensure the dependable pair would be available for the Hong Kong and Japan.
“There is sill room for improvement since I believe we should be playing in the Main Cup final in the upcoming tournaments. Technically we were much better this time but there still a lot of ground to be covered,” the head coach added.
Biko Adema and Ken Moseti who replaced Michael Wanjala and Victor Oduor who were injured in Wellington returned a day earlier since they had separate ticketing arrangements.
In his address, Kenya Airways CEO, Titus Naikuni, urged the team management to convene soon to review their performances before preparing for the next couple of outings.
“The team should sit down with a piece of paper and note down all what they did right and all they did wrong and work on eliminating what did not go according to plan,” he added.