NAIROBI, April 20- He was described by Kenya Rugby Union chairman Richard Omwela as ‘the stone the builders rejected’ and Kenya Sevens head coach Benjamin Ayimba is now dreaming of securing a podium finish for the team in the Olympics, spurred on by the Main Cup success in the Singapore leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Ayimba’s appointment to return as the team as head coach was met with a lot of criticism and split the KRU board into half threatening to completely flatten it.
However, the coach has silenced his critics with the conquest in Singapore winning the Main Cup for the first time after a 17-year wait and he believes the success in Singapore will spur them into an Olympic medal when Sevens rugby debuts in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“It was something that we always knew we could do. It is a great eye opener for what we can do as a team and a reward for those who have worked hard for the team. The boys have always known what we needed to do. It has been close misses with Fiji even in Hong Kong and this was the time for it to happen,” Ayimba told Capital Sport.
“It has made us believe and given us the morale to move forward because this year our big focus is on the Olympics. What happened in Singapore shows our true potential,” Ayimba added.
The sentiments were shared by assistant captain Collins Injera who believes the side now has enough mental strength to head into the Olympics and the dream of a podium finish remains alive.
“Our goal has always to medal in Rio and what we achieved in Singapore and having the feeling of a podium is such a big thing and a morale booster for us as we keep our eyes on the Olympics. We have no preference for whatever medal but all we want is a podium slot,” Injera added.
Ayimba further said he will use the final two legs of the World Rugby Sevens series in London and Paris to prepare the team further for the Olympics intimating he will use two different teams for each of the series as he seeks to deepen his scope of players ahead of Olympics selection.
“We will have one team playing in Paris then after another will fly in to London for the final leg. We want to have as many players as possible get that top flight experience and this will be like our pre-Olympic,” Ayimba added.
In Singapore and Hong Kong, Ayimba gave debuts to Menengai Cream Homeboyz winger Alvin ‘Buffa’ Otieno as well as Impala Saracens’ Samuel Motari and he was impressed with their performance.
“That is how you grow a player by introducing him step by step to the big stage. It is the same that happened with the likes of Injera, Khayange, Amonde and the rest of the senior players. I am impressed with how the two grew into the tournament,” Ayimba noted.
While Otieno made his debut in Hong Kong, Motari seemed the good luck charm as he came into the team for his first appearance in Singapore, replacing the injured Biko Adema.
Speaking to Capital Sport Motari says his biggest target is to get into Kenya’s final team to the Olympics in Rio and adds he believes the team has a huge chance to make an impression in the Brazilian Capital.
“getting into the team and being part of the history making squad was such a huge thing for me and it gives a lot of motivation heading to the Olympics. My target is to ensure I am in the final team and in the Rio games, I want to be the best winger in the tournament,” Motari said.
The triumphant team returned to the country on Tuesday afternoon from Singapore to a triumphant welcome and will have only six days of rest before shifting their attention to the London and Paris legs of the series.