NAIROBI, April 2 –After failing to achieve their second Main Cup quarter-final target in Hong Kong, Kenya 7s are out to make amends at the seventh HSBC World Series round in Tokyo this weekend, where they are once again drawn in a tough pool.
With Kenya 25 points above relegation threatened Japan in the standings, it’s almost impossible for Shujaa to lose their Core Status, but head coach Felix Ochieng is aiming for a flying finish to the season over the remaining three rounds to take momentum into African qualifiers for 2016 Olympics in Johannesburg at the beginning of November.
Kenya have had a rough campaign, only managing to reach the Main Cup quarters once in Wellington 7s, a result that has seen them stand no chance of qualifying for Rio as one of the top four sides from the series.
Despite beating Tokyo 7s hosts Japan 26-7 to lift the Shield in Hong Kong, Kenya sunk out of the Main Cup winless before losing the Bowl quarters 10-21 to Canada to compound their woes.
On paper, there is no respite in Japan where Kenya will face series leaders South Africa, USA and Canada who have turned them into whipping boys in the preliminary round.
Once again, Kenya kick-off against former head coach, Mike Friday’s USA on Saturday morning at 5:50am local time (+3GMT) having lost to them thrice this season.
In their last encounter in Hong Kong, Shujaa tossed away a 14-0 half-time lead after losing it on the breakdown to allow Friday charges make a stunning 14-21 comeback win.
Kenya have a chance to get one over Friday who steered them to a fifth finish on 99 points during the 2012-13 season with Ochieng as his assistant, their highest ever close to a HSBC campaign.
The man to watch is Maka Unufe who has had a great outing with USA this season having beaten Kenya 5-12 in Dubai and 5-33 at South Africa’s Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens before Hong Kong.
Shujaa will then renew their African rivalry with South Africa at 8:46am EAT time (+3GMT) in fixture that will probably determine their Main Cup quarters fate.
The last time the two sides faced each other was at Wellington 7s Cup quarters where Blitzbokke won 19-5 in Ochieng’s first outing since replacing South African Paul Treu who resigned at Port Elizabeth 7s last December.
With Ochieng having seasoned players led by veteran Humphrey Kayange, his younger brother Collins Injera as well as skipper Andrew Amonde, the team will fancy their chances to stop the South Africans who are on the verge of qualifying to the Summer Games.
However, with two wins from the first three rounds, Blitzboke are seemingly unstoppable as they eye clinching the overall series for a second time.
Shujaa are likely to miss the services of scrum-half Michael Wanjala who suffered a knock against Canada and did not play in Portugal and Japan subsequent fixtures while Blitzboke have called up uncapped Carel du Preez to replace injured forward Philip Snyman.
Kenya will wrap up her group stage fixtures against Canada at 1:20pm.