NAIROBI, July 29 – The pressure is on after Kenya were seeded top of the men’s Rio 2016 Olympics Africa qualifiers for rugby sevens set for November 14 to 15 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Shujaa, will battle it out with 11 nations for one slot after failing to clinch the automatic ticket open to top four finishers in the 2014-15 Rugby Sevens World Series when finishing in disappointing 13th.
Zimbabwe, who missed promotion to the World Series after going down to Russia in the final of the play-offs, Tunisia, Namibia, Uganda, Madagascar, Senegal, Zambia, Morocco, Mauritius, Nigeria and Botswana round the qualifiers line-up.
Despite being the team to beat, the national team is yet to start their pre-season preparations after downing their tools three weeks ago.
Players and their coaches are demanding unpaid salaries and bonuses, training facilities, food supplements and access to a proper gymnasium.
Kenya Rugby Union remitted payments until end June but that was not enough to convince them to return to their job as they await the Board’s directive.
The future of head coach, Felix ‘Toti’ Ochieng alongside his senior players is clouded in mystery since their contracts of service lapse on Friday.
South African duo assistant head coach, Vuyo Zangqa and Strength and Conditioning boss, Gram Bentz have deals that run until next September but closed ranks with their technical bench counterparts in going on strike.
Speaking to Capital Sport on Wednesday, Team Manager, Steve Sewe, is hopeful the Union will resolve the stand-off as soon as possible so they can start hit the ground as soon as possible.
“We are likely to stay top of our pool. It’s a good build-up as we anticipate meeting a strong side in the knockout (stages). But we will not take any chances because there is not small team in Sevens nowadays.
“We are facing tough times and I hope the Union will handle it well for us to get back on point,” the long serving official stated.
Kenya has high chances of making it to the Summer Games that will be hosted in Brazil’s capital city, Rio de Janeiro since they are the only World Rugby Sevens Series core side in the continental qualifiers.
The top team will qualify directly to Rio whist the second, third, and fourth finishers will play in a 16-team elimination competition where the winner will also book a slot.
Rugby sevens will make its Olympics debut on August 6, 2016 when the Games kicks-off at the Deodoro Olympic Park for six-day action.
Kenya’s Lioness are also battling for a slot in the women’s sevens that will see the world’s top sides compete at the Olympic Games medal for 92 years, with 12 teams competing over three days.