NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 5 – Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu and captain Andrew Amonde are upbeat the side will perform well at the Hong Kong Sevens which kicks off on Friday despite late withdrawals of two key players Willy Ambaka and Dan Sikuta.
Simiyu, speaking after the side’s acclimatization session in the Asian city has hinted that some of the experienced players will have to double up positions to mitigate the absence of the two which meant Kenya travelled with a squad of 10 players only.
“We have to deal with resources we have and some players will double up with positions. The experienced players like Collins (Injera) can play in virtually any position, we have Olli (Sammy Oliech) who can play in any position as well, Bush (Mwale) can play as a centre and hooker….”
“We will try to adapt because we lost two forwards which is something critical. We are also moving Ombachi (Dennis) to prop and that is what we will do to cover. At the moment in training we are doing a bit of adaptation in terms of the positioning,” the coach said.
Skipper Andrew Amonde speaking to Capital Sport from Hong Kong is also upbeat the team can manage without the absence of the duo.
“It is quite unfortunate because these are players who have been inspirational for us this season. But we will have to adapt and the good thing is that we have young players who can rise up to the occasion and the challenge is now on them,” the skipper noted.
Amonde has been a key figure for the team this season, collecting 95 points from 19 tries, being the highest scorer in the team and the ninth best overall try scorer in the series.
Ambaka is reported to be working on a move to a professional stint abroad, with sources intimating he was supposed to leave after the Hong Kong tie while Sikuta might have been convinced to remain by his club Kabras who are playing in the Kenya Cup semi finals this weekend.
Sikuta’s case might bring him and the club to a collision course with the Kenya Rugby Union who have said action will be taken if the player turns out for Kabras this weekend.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Shujaa will be looking to get into the Cup quarters for only the second time this season, the only time they reached the last eight being at the Cape Town Sevens in South Africa last December.
Kenya is in Pool B alongside series leaders South Africa, France and Canada and both Amonde as well as coach Simiyu are confident the group is favorable to finish within the top two.
“It is not an easy group, but one where we have a chance in. I believe in the boys and we want to bounce back from the performance we had in the last tour of the Americas. It is possible if we work hard collectively as a team,” Amonde opined.
His sentiments were shared by coach Simiyu who said; “We are in an interesting pool where we have a good shot to qualifying. We have played France thrice this season, beaten them twice and lost once. We have played Canada twice, lost and won. Hopefully we can execute our strategy well and hit our target.”
In the squad named for the tour, Simiyu has given a first call to Impala’s Derrick Mayer who might be in line to make his debut in Hong Kong.
“Derrick brings in a lot of quality terms of skill and we know in the game of sevens skill is very important. He is also good at high balls and a sprinter, thus adds pace in the game and brings some advantage to an area we needed to improve on which is kick off,” the coach noted.
The Hong Kong Sevens will be unique in a way as it will be a three-day tournament running from Friday to Sunday.
Shujaa start their campaign on Friday at 3:18pm Kenyan time against Canada. The second group game will involve the series leaders South Africa on Saturday at 8:56am before concluding the group activity against France at 12:34pm.