NAIROBI, Kenya, January 27 – National Sevens head coach Felix Ochieng’ has named nine seasoned players who will be making their first appearance at the HSBC Sevens World Series this season for the fourth and fifth legs.
The squad led by vice captain Collins Injera, fly-half Lavin Asego, forward Patrice Agunda, Daniel Sikuta and Billy Odhiambo are back in the team after settling their contractual dispute with the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) Board.
Others include Tonny Owuor, Felix Ayange, Oscar Ayodi and Tony Onyango while Leonard Mugaisi, Oliver Mang’eni, Michael Wanjala ‘junior’ and Jacob Ojee were named in the non traveling reserves.
Injera who is Kenya’s all-time try scorer ruled out the county’s chances of automatically qualifying to the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil but was confident they will head to the Summers Games through the regional qualifies.
“I’m delighted to be back in the team. For now it’s impossible to finish top four unless we win all our matches, but we still have the chance to qualify through the African qualifiers.
“We need to focus on getting out of the bottom and climb to top five. We are aware of the huge task ahead of us, we are in a tricky group and we just need to keep focus in the game and play one match at a time,” Injera told Capital Sport.
Ochieng’ who faces his first test since succeeding South African Paul Treu, said they will approach Wellington 7s where they are pooled alongside Argentina, Scotland and Samoa cautiously.
“We will take each game at a time starting with our opening game against Argentina. The team has been committed in training and we are not going to run away from the challenges. We are competing against 15 nations who also have the same goals like us.
“We are doing everything possible to ensure we are consistent in whatever we do to get best results since the World Series is a very harsh reality,” Ochieng declared.
At the same, team official sponsor Kenya Airways voiced their concern on the wrangles that dominated KRU for the better part of the season, resulting former head coach Treu, directors Godwin Karuga, Maurice Masiga and Peninah Wahome as well as chairman Mwangi Muthee tendering their resignations.
“We remain committed to rugby as the official team sponsor we need to reclaim our position in top flight rugby because we are not investing our money where we don’t get results.
“In recent days there have been many changes in the KRU Board but it’s our sincere hope that the changes will be beneficial to the sport. However, I reiterate to the management inside and outside the Union we expect nothing but transparency,” Kenya Airways CEO Mbuvi Ngunze said.
He added, “We don’t feature in the top five standings as it has been our tradition in the past, its only midway through the season we can turn tables. I’m challenging you (players) to put your best foot forward in order to get us up in the coming two legs.
“We expect highest level of integrity in all our dealings and also to end wrangles because it’s hurting the game of rugby.”
The KRU board constituted a seven-member committee led by its Director, Pape Sembi to investigate allegations of financial impropriety in the local governing body.
The board had instructed its auditors, PKF to begin a financial review of the Union, investigating the 2014 Bamburi Rugby Super Series and Safaricom International Sevens for any financial impropriety.
The Kenya 7s team will depart Saturday for New Zealand to take part in the Wellington 7s that runs on the weekend of February 6 and 7, before heading to USA’s Las Vegas 7s a week later.
Kenya squad to Wellington and Las Vegas
Andrew Amonde (Captain, KCB), Collins Injera, Lavin Asego,Daniel Sikuta (Mwamba) Billy Odhiambo, Tonny Owuor, Michael Wanjala,Tony Onyango (Pan Africa Strathmore Leos), Oscar Ayodi, Bush Mwale (Homeboyz), Patrice Agunda, Felix Ayange (Kenya Harlequin)
Management: Felix Ochieng (HEAD COACH), Vuyo Zangqa (ASSISTANT COACH), Graham Bentz (STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH), Lameck Bogonko (PHYSIO), Steven Sewe (TEAM MANAGER)