NAIROBI, Kenya, September 2 – The national 7s team technical bench has identified 47 players from the local circuit they believe will form a formidable squad for the 2014/15 HSBC World Series campaign.
Several under-18 players who finished fourth at the Youth Olympics Games in Nanjing, China are among those in the coaches’ radar for a tilt in the campaign where a top four finish in the world series will book the team’s place at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Assistant coach Felix ‘Toti’ Ochieng said the earmarked players will get a first run out at the September 26-28 Safaricom 7s at Kasarani where Kenya will field three teams.
“It’s absolutely amazing seeing all these young players representing their clubs because I don’t think Kenya has a lot of talent from the lower level but there is a lot coming through. It’s very important for us to keep on scouting for the talent from such tournaments.
“We have looked up to a total of 47 players who are already in our systems and we are monitoring them to see how they will perform this weekend. In Safari 7s it’s our hope we field three teams across the tournament because we will have many young players including those who participated at the Youth Olympics, it’s about time we start giving them opportunities since they are the future of Kenyan rugby,” Ochieng, a former international and Harlequins forward told Capital Sport at Prinsloo 7s.
Shujaa will use the tournament as part of their preparation ahead of the World Series that kicks-off in Gold Coast on October 11-12.
With the team undergoing a transition last season under headcoach Paul Treu, Ochieng’ believes this is the time for the players to implement his methods as they seek to improve on their eighth finish in the World Series.
But he underscored they will face an uphill task because each team will be vying for an automatic berth at the Rio Games where rugby 7s will make its Olympics debut.
“To be honest, Mike Friday took the team where it was at that time but last season we played the top teams regularly either in the pool or quarterfinal stage which was difficult because we were competing against sides that were well structured and experienced.
“It’s going to be a cutthroat season and we are looking forward to beat the big teams to accomplish our immediate goal of qualifying for Olympics,” explained Ochieng.
He continued; “Coaching Kenya is not an easy task and fans can be very unforgiving sometimes. We will be under pressure going forward but we believe we are putting the right systems in place and I think the boys are hungry to perform and represent the county to the fullest.
“We will be absolutely ruthless in our approach this season because we owe the county so much.”
Despite the competition being tough, Ochieng assured rugby enthusiasts they will book berth in the maiden 7s tournament at the summer Games in Rio de Janeiro but urged his troops to minimize on their errors and utilize their chances.
“I thank fans for their continued support and believing in us so it’s upon players to step up their game and I’m sure with that it’s going to be a season worth to be watched.
“I will be less ambitious if I say we will not qualify, yes we will be one of the teams in Olympics and we will be surprised if we don’t make it,” Ochieng concluded.
His flocks were also reading from the same script with skipper Andrew Amonde saying new blood in the squad will see them maintain consistency once they are hit by injuries.
“From the talent we have witnessed in the series we expect new guys to come in and boost the team, last year we struggled because we were adapting on the new system but this is the season for us to implement what we have been learning,” the KCB forward sated.
Homeboyz’s Oscar Ayodi said Kenyans should expect more tries from him this season.
“This is a new beast this season, of cause they should expect many tries but I’m not there yet I’m in a build up process and I hope by the time we play the Safari 7s I will be top of my game.
“I have gained a lot from Treu and I’m still learning, he took South Africa to where they are today so I’m hoping it will be the same with us one day. Expect fire wax because we are a different side,” Ayodi declared.