NAIROBI, October 5 – National Sevens head coach, Benjamin Ayimba believes they have their work cut out to qualify for the 2016 Olympics at next month’s African qualifiers after gauging their opponents at this year’s Safari 7s.
Ayimba was using the tournament to have a look at the available pool of players as he prepares to select his final squad of 23 that will be contracted by Kenya Rugby Union ahead of the 2015-16 Rugby Sevens World Series season.
The re-appointed head coach was impressed by the level of competition from the young players, revealing nine of them will make up the main squad that will also feature at the African Olympics qualifiers.
Shujaa hammered Zimbabwe 27-0 in the Cup quarters while Morans mauled Namibia 33-10 in the Bowl semis with the two featuring in the race to Rio in the qualifiers set for Johannesburg, South Africa in November.
“We are doing basics well and the boys have shown what it takes to be a winning side. We have seen very good players who have proved their worth. The likes of Frank Wanyama have stepped to another level.
“We have a tremendous squad that will give us headache in selection but we are happy we have young players we can work with. Safari Sevens was a good way of weighing our opponents before meeting them at the bigger stage,” Ayimba outlined.
The head coach identified Zimbabwe as their biggest threat but he was confident they will grab the only slot from the African region in a competition that will also feature Uganda, Tunisia, Madagascar, Botswana, Morocco and Senegal.
“Zimbabwe are the only strong outfit but they have seen what these boys can do and I’m sure we have already beaten them physiologically.
“The only thing remaining is to make it happen. Namibia played in the Bowl against Morans and we blew them away so there is nothing to worry about.
“We have trained 20 percent of what we need to achieve by the time we play the qualifiers so I’m sure we will have a good competition,” Ayimba, who succeed Felix ‘Toti’ Ochieng last month, noted.
With seven Kenyan players opting to feature for invitational sides, Samurai who lifted the 20th Safari 7s Main Cup and Newcastle Wailers, Ayimba had no regrets for overlooking them when he unveiled his Shujaa and Morans squads.
Former Kenya 7s forward, Oscar Ouma who plies his trade in Sri Lanka, Felix Ayange, Sammy Oliech and Cyprian Kuto played for Samurai under tutelage of Mike Friday whilst Horace Otieno, Michael Agevi and Allan Omuka turned out for the Wailers.
“Oscar (Ouma) was not available for selection but if he is playing consistently for his club, then there is reason to call him up.
“However, if he is not playing anywhere it’s unfortunate we will not consider him since it will be unfair to other boys who are working hard in their teams,” Ayimba who guided the class of 2009 to Rugby Sevens World Cup semi finals, declared.
All time-try record scorer, Collins Injera, Daniel Sikuta, Lavin Asego, Billy Odhiambo, Patrice Agunda, Oscar Ayodi, Dennis Ombachi and Leonard Mugaisi, sat out the annual African premier sevens tournament but sat on the technical bench to motivate their team-mates.
Wanyama, Geofrey Ominde, Eden Agero and David Kivuti were outstanding in the tournament that saw Willy Ambaka scoop the most valuable player grounding most tries.