NAIROBI, May 7 – Having nothing to play for, the national Sevens team are out to upset champions New Zealand, Series leaders South Africa and Samoa as the 2014-15 HSBC Sevens World Series enters its penultimate round in Glasgow this weekend.
Losing Core Status is a near impossibility for Kenya who are 16 points above relegation threatened Japan heading to the final two legs where Felix Ochieng charges just need to reach the Plate to be guaranteed safety.
“Some of the changes have been warranted by Lavin Asego’s injury who has been consistent and as a management it’s a big loss because his contribution on and off the pitch has been very vital to the highs and lows we have had this season.
“We need to ensure we stay on top in all sides, either through defence or attack so that we give ourselves the best possible chance of going through to the Cup quarters,” Ochieng urged the team before departure for Glasgow.
Being an Olympic Games qualifier season, All Blacks and Blitzboke are expected to leave nothing to chance in the automatic ticket race for the top four places whilst Shujaa and Samoa will be seeking morale boosters as they head for the regional qualifiers in November.
Kenya who enter the pool as dark horses will be put to test in their opening match against New Zealand at 2:20pm local time (+3 GMT) who last lost to Shujaa in February 2013.
All Blacks who go into the match as favourites having beaten Shujaa in their last seven matches, cannot afford to drop more points as they chase one of the available four slots for the Summer Games automatic qualification.
With Asego ruled out with an ankle injury, Ochieng might start with Homeboyz’s Augustine Lugonzo in favour of seasoned Biko Adema since the former had a good run, converting all kicks in his last two assignments.
Other returnees who are likely to start are Dennis Ombachi to replace Patrice Agunda, Oscar Ayodi in place of Tony Owuor while Tony Opindo is also available to fill Felix Ayenge’s spot at the back.
New Zealand who won Plate in Japan have also made changes in their squad with Gillies Kaka, who has not played since injuring his hand at Las Vegas 7s and Sam Vaka returning to the team.
Both sides will meet for the first time this season.
The second match will see Kenya lock horns with stubborn South Africa at 5:04pm who have proved to be a hard nut to crack after trouncing Ochieng charges six times this season.
Despite Blitzboke riding on a high, Shujaa return to Scotstoun Stadium where they stunned South Africa 14-7 last season.
Having known how they play since they have met on several occasion this term, it would be a perfect opportunity for them to earn sweet revenge.
However, Kenya’s back-line have an uphill task in stopping Fabian Juries who is fourth on all-time try scorers list on 179 behind the country’s record scorer Collins Injera who is on 196, as well as contain speedy dreadlocked Cecil Afrika.
A win for Shujaa will increase their chances of advancing to the Cup quarters while a good performance for the Commonwealth champions will not only ensure they stay in the hunt for the coveted World Series title, but also clinch their direct spot for Olympic Games in Rio.
The last preliminary fixture will see Kenya take on Samoa at 8:15pm who are three places above them on 56 points.
It’s a relatively fair fixture for Kenya who boast of two successive wins this season against the Samoans.
Just like Shujaa, Samoa have had a mixed season but went a step high in making the final in Gold Coast and the semi-final in Hong Kong but they have also found themselves fighting in the Bowl and Shield at times.
Local timing +3GMT, Glasgow 7s.
Kenya v New Zealand – 2.20pm
Kenya v South Africa – 5.04pm
Kenya v Samoa – 8.15pm