NAIROBI, May 19 – National head coach, Felix ‘Totti’ Ochieng has warned qualifying for Rio 2016 via continental qualifiers is not a foregone conclusion despite Kenya being overwhelming favourites to join South Africa as the first African rugby 7s nations at the Olympics.
The Blitzbokke nailed automatic qualification for Rio by clinching a top four place at the HSBC World Series while Kenya, who slumped to 13th, have to beat Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Tunisia and Uganda and others to clinch the remaining berth as rugby 7s makes its Olympics debut next year.
The qualifiers will be held in round robin format in South Africa in November.
“We know it will be very competitive. Just like the Series, teams are improving and gone are the days when you could walk over teams in the region. Look at Brazil, who would have thought they will push us and Scotland in London? Teams are getting better day by day.
“We have watched Zimbabwe play in the Series qualifiers and they are very good. They are close to South Africa which gives them exposure. They also have a lot of players playing in United Kingdom. Namibia will be coming from World Cup and I’m sure they will include some experienced players,” Ochieng cautioned.
The head coach who joined the team mid-season after the resignation of South African Paul Treu, guaranteed Kenya Rugby Union and rugby enthusiasts Kenya will not struggle in the coming season where he has been set a top ten target.
“We will always compete to the highest level and I assure the rugby family from today going forward, those are the last worse performance you will see in Kenya Sevens. The board and the sponsors require us to be accountable, we would like to forget this season very quickly and move on.”
Ochieng told Capital Sport at least three changes are expected in the team as part of his team rebuilding during off season to be ready for the qualifiers that that will take place November 15.
With veteran and former skipper, Humphrey Kayange considering international retirement and fly half Lavin Asego nursing long term ankle injury, Ochieng revealed he would consider under-19 players and Kenya Cup as recommended by their respective coaches.
“The training will be very competitive because regular players will be looking up for Olympics selection. All players will be given opportunity but only those who will stand out in training will be picked.
“We will be working around the clock to ensure we prepare well in pre-season. We are not taking the qualifiers lightly; we are going to ensure we use our experience to see Kenya remain competitive which I know will be very tough.”
Series champions Fiji, New Zealand and Great Britain also automatically for Rio from the HSBC World competition.