NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 23 – Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu targets to succeed in the Main Cup as Shujaa travels to Las Vegas and Vancouver, the fifth and sixth legs of the HSBC Sevens World series.
Shujaa has only qualified to the Cup quarters once this season, and looking on to Las Vegas where Kenya is pooled with New Zealand, Argentina and Russia, Simiyu is confident the team can maneuver out.
“It is an interesting group but our target remains to get at least to the Main Cup quarters. In terms of physicality we expect a tough game from New Zealand but with Russia and Argentina, I don’t think they can match us in terms of physicality especially on the breakdown,” Simiyu said when unveiling the squad on Thursday.
The coach has made only two changes from the squad that did duty during the last tour in New Zealand and Australia.
Oscar ‘Wheels’ Ouma has been ruled out with a shoulder injury and has been replaced by Frank Wanyama while Oscar Ayodi returns to the squad for the first time this season after recovering from a recurrent knee injury, replacing Brian Tanga.
“We thought it is the right point to expose Ayodi at that level because he has been working hard and is key to our success. We also thought this is good time for him after the injury and it also gives us a balance at our bench,” the coach added.
At the same, Simiyu says the resignation of strength and conditioning coach Ian Gibbons earlier this week has not had a big impact of the team, pointing out they had a good contingency plan with the Kenya 15s strength and conditioning coach Richard Ochieng as well as his Lionesses counterpart Sam Njogu helping in.
“It is quite unfortunate but we understand his decision looking at his perspective because he has to make decisions in regard to career and family. We respect that decision. Of course we miss him with his expertise but we are comfortable that things are moving well in that department,” Simiyu said.
Kenya Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer Ronald Bukusi has confirmed that the Union is working on replacing the Englishman, though he could not put an exact time line on when the new man will be drafted in.
“It is sad that he resigned at that time but the Union is working on it and within the next couple of weeks we will find a solution. Meanwhile we have temporary measures put in place. We will look at the best individual for the job whether local or foreign,” Bukusi opined.
Simiyu meanwhile is confident the team will do better than the Sidney and Wellington legs especially after working to address the mistakes on concentration, ball handling and conditioning.
“The problem we have had from the word go in terms of conditioning is the fact that we didn’t have a good pre-season. That is why you find the consistency issues arise. But we have refreshed over the last three weeks of training and we have addressed the issues we had. I am very confident we will improve,” Simiyu, a former Kenya Sevens skipper noted.
Shujaa enjoy massive support in Las Vegas and Simiyu has described playing in the American city as ‘playing at home’. He hopes that support will drive them to succeed.
“I am hoping they can push us because we need to fire as well as we were firing before. We need to get that to above four tries per game and once we do that I am sure we will not have any problems,” he added.
The team will travel to USA on Saturday with their first match of the fifth leg set to be against heavy weights New Zealand at 4:15am Kenyan time on Saturday.
Shujaa team to Las Vegas, Vancouver:
Andrew Amonde (KCB), Frank Wanyama, Eden Agero, Willy Ambaka (Kenya Harlequins), Leonard Mugaisi, Augustine Lugonzo, Oscar Ayodi, Bush Mwale (Homeboyz), Sammy Oliech (Impala), Billy Odhiambo, Collins Injera (Mwamba), Nelson Oyoo (Nakuru RFC), Dan Sikuta (Kabras).