NAIROBI, Kenya, October 8 – It’s time to welcome back one of the most marvellous competitions in the world ¬- HSBC Sevens World Series- in its 2014-15 season with anticipation for this year’s event unmatched by any of the previous 15 editions since it will play an integral part in deciding who gets to the 2016 Olympics Games Rio-de-Janeiro.
The National team is hoping for a good start at the Gold Coast 7s this weekend as they seek to improve last season’s performance where they finished eighth on 84 points as they seek to nail a top 4 berth to earn direct qualification to the Summer Games.
Unlike every other leg of the series, the Gold Coast stop is not paired with another tournament in consecutive weekends and that allows teams the benefit of getting to test their squads on the international stage early.
Head coach Paul Treu who failed to sparkle on his first year in charge, made drastic changes in his squad, bringing in six debutants in his team that will face newcomers American Samoa, Wales and his former employers, South Africa in Pool B on Saturday.
With the South African trusting new faces namely; Nakuru RFC back row Martin Owila who replaced injured Cyprian Kuto, teenager Alex Olaba, Homeboyz trio of Michael Wanjala, Bush Mwale and Augustine Lugonzo as well as the KCB pair of Jacob Ojee and Oliver Mang’eni, he will be banking on experienced captain Andrew Amonde, Western Bull’s Davis Chenge and Leonard Mugaisi to marshal the troops.
“As we are heading into the Olympic qualifying season, we are under no illusion that it will be a massive challenge for our young players to find their feet and keep striving for excellence. But we have no option but to perform,” Treu declared before departing for a four day camp in South Africa.
Kenya who enter the competition from participating in the Safaricom 7s open their campaign against little known American Samoa at 4:40am local time (+3GMT), before taking on Wales at 8:01am a team that bundled them out of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games at the Plate semi-final.
The two sides have met 25 times with the Welsh edging their head to head record having won 13 against Shujaa’s 12.
Unlike Kenya, Wales head into the IRB World Sevens Series with a new captain in the form of Jevon Groves who succeeded Adam Thomas but just as Treu, Wales head coach Gareth Williams has a number of new young faces in his team.
Treu will face his former employer, the Blitzbokke in their final preliminary match at 11:17am, a side he has beaten only once in eight encounters with the latest being at the Club Games where Kenya went down 20-0 as his country of birth lifted the Commonwealth title.
South Africa head coach Neil Powell has made four changes from the Glasgow squad as Frankie Horne who is set to play in his 60th World Series tournament retained the arm-band.
“Our success in Glasgow will obviously bring added expectations, but we will keep our feet on the ground and continue to work hard to make sure we don’t become complacent,” Powell told IRB official website.
The best performance for Kenya at the Australian outing came in the 2008-09 season when it was known as the Adelaide Sevens, where they lost the Cup final 26-7to incidentally, South Africa in the only all-Africa World Series leg final to date.
Last season despite having a formidable squad that included vice captain and Kenya’s all time leading try scorer Collins Injera, Horace Otieno, Biko Adema, Patrice Agunda, Oscar Ayodi, Oscar Ouma, Dennis Ombachi and Billy Odhiambo among others who were axed from the Gold Coast trip owing to contractual dispute with Kenya Rugby Union, Kenya only managed to reach the Plate Semi-final.