NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22- Kenya’s skipper for the forthcoming Africa Sevens Championships Michael Wanjala has vowed the team will put their best to defend the title they won last year in South Africa.
The African Championship will run concurrently with the annual Safari Sevens tournament which will be commemorating its 20th anniversary and Kenya has named two different squads for either championship.
The Homeboyz RFC winger, who returns to the national sevens side after close to a year on the sidelines, will lead a team of mostly uncapped players and they are seeded top in Group A alongside Senegal and Nigeria.
“It is an honor being tasked with captaining the team. I feel great getting the chance back in the team and I can say it is the fruit of hard work and determination and I look forward to the challenge,” Wanjala, who moved to Homeboyz from Strathmore Leos at the start of this season, told Capital Sport.
He is confident the team is strong enough to challenge for the crown in front of the home fans, and holds belief Kenya who won the tournament when they last hosted it in 2013 in Mombasa will carry the day once again.
“The boys are really looking forward to the challenge because it is a huge motivation playing at home and backed by our home fans. We expect a very tough tournament because I believe all teams are good and we don’t need to underrate anyone,” Wanjala offered.
The team has however trained for only two days after the completion of the National Sevens Circuit and head coach Paul Murunga admits it will be a challenge getting the team to play in a fluid way.
“This is a fresh team and most of these players haven’t played together before. We will basically depend on individual brilliance to carry us through and the first two matches against Nigeria and Senegal which will be very important to give us some footing,” Murunga opined.
Kenya begins her campaign against Nigeria on Friday at noon before playing Senegal in the last group match at 7:16pm.
“We have tried over the last two days to work on team combination and I believe we have a very good squad which has the potential to get into the senior team next season. There’s so much talent and this tournament will give them an ideal ground to launch themselves into the big stage,” the coach, who was also the Shujaa assistant coach in the recently concluded season added.
“Despite the challenge we have had in terms of training time, I still fancy the team to go all the way and win the title.”
A full strength Kenya side won the title last year in South Africa, with the tournament doubling up as an Olympic Qualifier when Dennis Ombachi scored a last gasp try to hand the team a 21-17 win over Zimbabwe.
The Southern Africans are placed in group B alongside Mauritius and Uganda while Morocco, Zambia and Madagascar play in group C with Tunisia, Botswana and Namibia squaring it out in Pool D.
Meanwhile, the seniors will hope to banish the embarrassment of a poor outing during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro as they attempt to win the Safari Sevens title for the first time since 2013.
The decision to field a stronger squad for the Safari Sevens speaks volumes of the Kenya Rugby Union’s ambitions.
Kenya squad (Africa Cup Sevens)
Michael Wanjala (Menengai Cream Homeboyz, captain), Steve Sikuta (Mwamba), Lameck Dunde (Resolution Impala Saracens), Herman Humwa (Kenya Harlequin), Fidel Oloo (Kabras Sugar), Derrick Mayar (Resolution Impala Saracens), Kevin Keegan (Kenya Harlequin), Alex Olaba (Strathmore Leos), Aluda Beda (Kabras Sugar), Martin Wanjia (Mwamba), Greg Odhiambo (Mwamba), Ginton Adongo (Strathmore Leos)
Coach: Paul Murunga Team Manager: Erick Ogweno, Physio: Anthony Maina