Rugby Rugby

Wellington boots on for Kenya


OUMA-ALL-BLACKSNAIROBI, Kenya, February 6- Rugby 7s head coach Paul Treu, will seek a repeat of last season, when they beat the hosts to reach Main Cup finals when they take the field for the fifth round of HSBC World Series in Wellington, New Zealand, this weekend.

The South African has kept faith with the 12 who collected seven points after finishing runners-up in the Bowl competition of Las Vegas 7s a fortnight ago.

Virtually all players in Treu’s squad were in New Zealand last year when they lost Main Cup finals to England 24-19 in Sudden death.

Nakuru RFC’s Oscar Ouma, who scored the winning try against All Blacks in the semifinals told International Rugby Board he is optimistic history will repeat itself.

“When we were 14-0 down, we knew we had to dig deep and look for that inner strength to level the scores. We knew we had to do our basics right and play the game.

“We had to focus on the seven players on the pitch and look each other in the eye. First Injera scored, then I touched down, and we knew it was a contest.

“In the last huddle before sudden death, we kept reminding each other house of pain, house of pain, which means when you are tired and feel like giving up you have to find that inner strength, we did so and it counted.

“It was memorable moment scoring against New Zealand at home since it is what we had to do.

“I’m positive we will have a good performance in Wellington this season and that will mark our start for success,” Ouma told.

Treu will have to plan his tactics well after coming from recording Kenya’s worst performance in Las Vegas, finishing as bowl finalists, unlike in the previous three rounds (Gold Coast, Dubai and Port Elizabeth ) where they reached Main Cup quarters.

Kenya opens their Pool D campaign against Samoa on Friday at 3:42am local time, a team that they have a poor head to head record, managing to win three in 29 meetings.

The coach has to work extra hard to win their first match, bearing in mind he is facing a side that comes into the tournament heads high after humiliating them 26-0, the last time they squared off in Glasgow last year.

New coach Viliamu Punivalu, has made only one change, bringing in Patrick Faapale to replace the suspended Sani Niue.

The Islanders, who are currently ranked fifth in the HSBC Sevens World Series, boost to have reached two Cup semi finals in a row at South Africa and USA.

The outcome of this match will determine how Kenya will perform in the remaining two to reach Main Cup quarters.

The second preliminary tie for the Kenyan boys will be against a resilient Australia who eliminated them 24-12 at Gold Coast 7s Cup quarter final when they last met (6:15am local time).

Unlike Treu who has retained his Las Vegas squad, Coach Michael O’Connor has made one significant change, recalling fit-again captain Ed Jenkins to replace Jordan Tuapou.

Kenya will take on Tonga in their last Group fixture (9:17am Kenyan time), a side that they are well familiar with, after pinning them down nine times of the 12 encounters, more recently humiliating them 38-0 at Gold Coast.

Treu will hope to continue with the dominance which could count for his team to advance to the Cup quarters, even as they prepare to face Tonga’s most experienced players captain Kilifi Latu and Paula Kata while Feleti Atiola, Tevita Manumua and Samu Fiefia make their debut.

Wellington performance will mostly determine whether Kenya will surpass the 99 points the country posted last season under the tutelage of Englishman Mike Friday and former strength and conditioning coach Chris Brown, with four rounds in Japan, Hong Kong, Scotland and England remaining.

Kenya is currently placed eighth in the standings with 39 points and they will need to reach at least the Cup Semifinal berth to acquire above 50 points.