NAIROBI, Kenya, April 1 – Under pressure 7s head coach Paul Treu, has come out to defend himself as the team limp performances in the 2013/14 HSBC Sevens World Series since he took charge in last November continued in their latest tours of Japan and Hong Kong upon return to the country.
The team that used to be welcomed in dance, pomp and color last season, jetted home to a lukewarm reception on Tuesday afternoon from Hong Kong their presence almost going unnoticed at the busy Jomo Kenyatta International Airport apart from press hounds eager to get answers from the team barely recognisable from last season.
Kenya posted her worst performance this season where they collected three points to lift the Shield and see them drop to ninth place on the log with 60 points at the Hong Kong 7s last weekend.
However, with two legs to go in Scotland (Glasgow 7s) and England (London 7s) before this season comes to a close, Treu’s camp has been hit by a major blow as captain Andrew Amonde the season finale after picking a forearm injury during Scotland clash in the Bowl quarter-finals that will sideline him out for eight weeks.
Horace Otieno is also a doubt after sustaining a knee knock but that does not trouble the former Blitzbokke tactician who said the recovery of Philip Wamae, Michael Wanjala and Felix Ayange, might have come at the right time.
Speaking while the team was hosted to a luncheon by sponsors Kenya Air Ways, Treu said the team is still mastering on the basics of his contact style of play before they specialize on various departments right from the props, wingers and kickers.
“We know our supporters are really longing for the first trophy and that is not the Shield, Bowl, Plate but the Cup. I can assure them we are all working hard behind the scenes to make it a reality.
“We are moving in the right direction maybe the results at the moment is not quite showing it but we have identified on things we are going to work on and we are starting at off-season where we will be looking at our team for the Youth Olympics Games and club players to see if we can get potential players that will add to the squad,” Treu who returned with the team for the first time unlike the past where he was connecting to South Africa explained.
Responding on players adapting to his new format of play, he said, “When I took over the team we were faced with a defence that was going backwards and an attack that was going side ways but we have put a lot of emphasis on our back and I think in some of the tournament we were second best in terms of missed tackles and tries conceded.
“I think it’s a working progress and if we can apply those strategies and techniques consistently for games and across the tournament we will be good to compete.
“As far as the attack is concerned everyone was crucifying and criticizing the team that we are not spreading the ball and I always say it’s easier to play a more attacking game and then open up but we are not used to it.
“What we are doing at the moment we are taking the team a step back to the basics making sure we can catch and pass the ball since we have seen most of our players doing mistakes on it going ahead to do simple mistakes like passing the ball forward,” he offered in mitigation.
“We would like to play a more open game unfortunately for us at this stage we are striving to get it right since we can’t get the ball away and the players fully understand other teams put us under pressure.
“There are two ways to play it wide, one is to pass, kick the ball wide or to the space but unfortunately our kicking skills are not up to the standards which we are working on as well as the passing the key passes quicker.
“For now we are concentrating to secure the ball in the breakdown, at the Scrum and line up after that anything is possible,” he expounded.
Amonde who just came from a shoulder injury that saw him miss Las Vegas and Wellington 7s will once again sit out when his beleaguered colleagues prepare Scotland and England.
“I feel bad missing the last two rounds due to injury but the boys will face a tough outing, I just wish them all the best. We did not perform well in Hong Kong since that was below par our performance.
“Our fans cannot understand that it’s not easy getting to a new system of play from scratch and get it from the beginning its takes time but we are buying into it.” The skipper who was up beat they will bounce back next season stated.
Kenya Rugby Union Chairman (KRU) Mwangi Muthee, who accompanied the team in Hong Kong, said the team is still in transition and will pick up in the 2014/15 season.
Despite piling pressure to the technical bench over concerns of poor run from supporters including their patron President Uhuru Kenyatta, Muthee, challenged the technical bench to utilize the off season well to strengthen the squad that will qualify to 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro.
At the same time he urged rugby enthusiasts to give the technical bench time to execute their plans as they continue to build the team for the global showpiece.
“I was with the boys in Hong Kong and I can say that Treu is rebuilding the team, a lot of work is in progress. We should be doing better than our performance at the moment but a lot of good things are on the way so for now let’s give the technical bench time to do what they have in their plan.
“A lot has changed from last season and after having a sterling performance last season, teams have upped their game knowing Kenya is a strong side and that’s why the World Series has become extremely competitive this season,” the KRU boss explained.
The chairman was optimistic Shujaa will perform better and can push in London for the Main Cup title.
“I don’t expect the last two legs to be radical. There will not be many changes to the squad but I expect the technical bench to come up with a new strategy.
“After this season we will have to evaluate on our performance and the teams above us and ask our selves where did we get it wrong and work out to be at par with them next year.
“The top five teams, New Zealand, South Africa, Fiji, England and Australia have pulled out from the rest making it tough for all the10 countries that are struggling to catch up with them not Kenya alone.
“The game is getting better and competitive every day and I’m happy with the boys since they are getting along with Treu’s new style of play bearing in mind he took the team in mid season,” Muthee added.
The team that is yet to reach a Cup semi-final will go back to the drawing board to prepare for the final legs in Scotland on the weekend of May 3 and 4 where they are drawn in a tricky Pool C alongside Tokyo 7s champions Fiji, Wales and Argentina before they head to England for the London 7s a week later.as