NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 14- Slightly over a year ago, the Kenya Sevens team and indeed the whole country was over the moon, celebrating the first ever Main Cup triumph by Shujaa following their stunning 30-7 triumph over giants Fiji in the final in Singapore.
Fast forward to 2017, the team is nowhere close to their form at the eighth leg of the World Sevens Series in Singapore and as they descend on the Asian city for their first match on Friday morning, they will hope the memories from then will spur them on.
Skipper Andrew Amonde who was one of the best performers alongside the returning Dennis Ombachi in Hong Kong last weekend is confident the team will do as well as they did last year.
“We are at a very good place and we have been trying to work on the mental strength. We have been playing well especially last weekend in Hong Kong and we will try to do what we did last year,” the burly skipper told World Rugby ahead of the weekend kick off.
In Hong Kong last weekend, Shujaa missed out on their third Challenge Trophy of the season after losing out by a narrow 21-19 margin to Scotland.
Though the team is different from last season’s Amonde hopes the same determination, focus and hard work that pushed them over the line against Fiji in that monumental final will spur them on.
For this year’s tournament, Shujaa are placed in what pundits see as a ‘favourable’ pool having being grouped with Argentina, Australia and Samoa in group C.
They begin their campaign against Argentina at 6am Kenyan time before facing Australia at 9:22 and Samoa at 12:56. Argentina and Australia placed sixth and seventh on the log have however, had superb seasons and it will not be a walk in the park for Shujaa.
The Innocent Simiyu charges have a checkered record against each of the three teams having met them twice already this season. Against Australia, Kenya lost 17-12 in a group match in Dubai during the first stop of the series, but bounced back to beat the Aussie 19-17 in the Challenge Trophy final in Wellington.
Against Argentina, Kenya met them first in Wellington, losing 17-12. The second meeting was in Las Vegas which ended 14-14.
Shujaa has also met Samoa twice, beating them 21-14 in the Challenge Trophy final in Las Vegas, but lost 26-7 in the Challenge Trophy semi-finals in Vancouver.
Pressure is on head coach Simiyu to pull his side through especially after an unsatisfactory season that has seen them pick 47 points off seven rounds of the series, a huge difference of 23 points off their target of 70.
He will look on the experience of the likes of Amonde and Collins Injera to lift them under pressure with the returning Ombacho also expected to keep his momentum going after impressing in his first tournament this season last weekend in Hong Kong.