NAIROBI, Kenya, February 4 – After losing hope on securing an automatic qualification to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the national Sevens team will be seeking to retain core status in the HSBC Sevens World Series when they return for the fourth round at Wellington 7s in New Zealand this weekend.
The team that welcomes back experienced players vice captain Collins Injera, fly-half Lavin Asego, Tonny Owuor, Felix Ayange, Michael Wanjala and Billy Odhiambo who all missed the opening three rounds in Gold Coast, Dubai and Port Elizabeth, will be looking to bounce back after a poor start that has seen them placed a disappointing 14th on 11 points.
All focus will be on newly appointed head coach Felix Ochieng’ who took charge of the team after South African Paul Treu resigned when Shujaa take on Argentina, Samoa and Scotland in pool D.
With Kenya yet to reach the Main Cup quarter-finals this season, Ochieng’ who has a full house will be looked upon by rugby enthusiast to redeem the country’s glory in the sport.
“With regards to where we are sitting on the log there is pressure. We are not going to flatter with relegation we will make sure everybody gives his best in the two legs (Wellington and Las Vegas).
“We are not naive in-terms of competition the series is very harsh and teams will be preparing for us so we are making sure we put the hard work at home and get the team spirit going on. We will take one game at a time since we don’t know what to expect from other teams,” Ochieng’ who served for a long period as assistant coach declared before the team departed for New Zealand.
With in-experience costing the team in the past three rounds where they reached two Shield finals and one Bowl final, Kenya will be seeking for positive start when they lock horns with Argentina on Friday at 3:24am local time in their group opener.
The Pumas who are fifth on the log have made five changes in their squad, with Anibal Garrido, Santiago Craig and Martin Chiappesoni making a comeback while Javier Rojas and Matias Orlando will make their first appearances on the Sevens circuit.
The two sides will be clashing for the 17th time and Argentina will be motivated by their better head to head record after winning nine compared to Kenya’s seven, with the latest defeat coming May last year where the Pumas won 19-33.
Kenya will then take on Scotland in the second match at 6:42am, a match that will determine their Cup quarters reach.
Just like the rest in the Pool, Scotland has made four changes to the one that competed in Dubai and South Africa, with Duncan Weir making his debut while Scott Riddell, Chris Kinloch and Struan Dewar are making a comeback.
Ochieng’ charges will enter the encounter as favourites on paper considering their better head to head record, having won 18 against Scots nine in their 27 meeting.
However, Scotland who are five places above Kenya are no pushovers this season and will boast of a 12-26 win that they beat Shujaa in their last encounter in March last year.
Kenya will then wrap up their preliminary fixture against seventh placed Samoa at 9.54am.
Samoa will be without key players Alatasi Tupou, Afa Aiono and Tom Iosefo who all miss out due to injury.
Shujaa has a poor record against the Manu who has won 18 of their 21 encounters with Kenya managing just three.
However, as they say rugby is played on the pitch and not on paper, so it’s just a matter of time to see if Ochieng’ will turn the tables around.
Kenya lifted the Bowl at last season’s Wellington 7s.
Kenya Sevens squad for Wellington Sevens
Andrew Amonde (Captain, KCB), Collins Injera , Daniel Sikuta, Lavin Asego (Mwamba), Billy Odhiambo, Michael Wanjala, Tonny Owuor (Pan Africa Strathmore Leos), Oscar Ayodi, Bush Mwale, Leonard Mugaisi (Homeboyz), Felix Ayange, Patrice Agunda (Kenya Harlequin).