NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 3 – For the last 11 meetings, Kenya has failed to beat England who has proved to be a hard nut to crack in the HSBC Sevens World Series and Shujaa will be looking for a formula to get one over the Englishmen when the two sides lock horns once again at the fourth leg in Sydney 7s this weekend.
To rub salt into Shujaa’s wound, the Innocent Simiyu charges will face another tough side South Africa and a tricky Japan in Pool A of the Sydney 7s as they seek to maneuver out of the challenging group.
Kenya enter Sydney at the back of collecting eight points from their last stop in Wellington after lifting the Challenge Trophy in a tournament that left them counting their endless mistakes that cost a Main Cup quart-finals reach in New Zealand.
Having a one-week break to work on the errors especially the offloads, reception and kicking, Shujaa are hoping to better their display this weekend and reach their second Cup quarters this season.
However, it will not be an easy ride to get out of the Pool and their opening match against England on the wee hours of Saturday morning at 2:58am Kenyan time will highly determine their ambitions of progressing to the Cup quarters.
On paper England are favourites having studied Kenya’s style of play that they utilized last weekend in Wellington, where they gave Shujaa space to swing the crosses but hunt them down on the breakdown to win 31-12 in the pool match and send the East African side to the Challenge Trophy.
The best Kenya has managed is a 19-19 draw that they picked in 2015 with England dominating the remaining 10 matches. Shujaa last picked a win against the Englishmen way back in 2011, recording a 19-17 victory at the Bowl quarters. England are third on the log on 49 points.
Shujaa head coach Simiyu will be worried by the good form of fleet-footed flyer Dan Norton, who is third on all-time try scorers list with 228 tries, eight behind leading record breaker Kenya’s star Collins Injera.
-South Africa test-
In their second match, Kenya will take on red hot South Africa in an all-African affair in a cracker that kicks-off at 7:15am Kenyan time.
The Blitzbokke are on their own class this season and they enter the tournament fresh from winning the Wellington Sevens leg where they beat Olympic Champions Fiji 26-5 to pretty control the overall standings with 63 points.
Shujaa also have a poor head-to-head record against South Africa where they have won five and drawn one in the last 31 matches with the Blitzbokke winning 25.
The last time Shujaa stopped South Africa was in 2015, winning 14-12 at Blitzbokke’s backyard in Cape Town 7s.
However, it’s South Africa who boast of a last win when the they met in 2016, drubbing Kenya 14-0 at the Singapore leg before Shujaa went on to lift their first ever Main Cup title after stunning Fiji 30-7.
Simiiyu’s boys will be out to prove a point but they are aware of the danger that Blitzbokke can cause especially through their bullet train player Seabelo Senatla, who is the highest ever try scorer for the South Africa with 180 at the age of 23.
The last group encounter will see Kenya clash with 16th ranked Japan at 11:51am. In this match Kenya has an upper hand having a better head-to-head record thanks to their 10 wins in the 12 matches they have met with the Japanese side only managing to beat Shujaa twice.
Kenya beat Japan 24-5 in their last meeting at Cape Town 7s in 2016 and Shujaa will be looking to bank on that to emerge victorious.