NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 21 – The electric atmosphere usually created by Kenyan fans in Las Vegas will ignite the Kenya Sevens team to surpass their target, according to head coach Innocent Simiyu, who is upbeat ahead of the fourth round of the HSBC Sevens World Series in USA on the weekend of March 2.
Simiyu has unveiled a more experienced squad for the assignment that sees the return of speedy winger and Kenya’s record try scorer Collins Injera as well as Billy Odhiambo as the head coach aims to reach the Main Cup semi-final for the first time ever since he took charge.
However, the team will miss the services of Captain Oscar Ayodi, who is recovering from injury, Frank Wanyama due to school commitment and Dennis Ombachi who is also in rehabilitation, injured Brian Tanga and Augustine Lugonzo who is out due to work commitment.
Simiyu is optimistic the trio will be back for the Hong Kong leg and was confident players called to the two legs of Las Vegas and Vancouver are up to the task.
“We have included Injera and Billy (Odhiambo) and we are happy with the experience they bring to the team, hopefully they can help us maintain our standards or make them higher and be consistent,” Simiyu, who has had a fair performance this season, reaching three Main Cup quarters, said.
Injera and Billy make a comeback after missing Cape Town, Hamilton and Sydney 7s outings.
Shujaa has had a mixed performance in Las Vegas, with last season seeing them listing the Challenge Trophy while the best they have ever achieved in USA was way back during the 2009-10 season where they reached the Cup semis after losing 21-7 to New Zealand.
This time they find themselves in a difficult Pool A alongside Hamilton 7s winners Fiji, France and Russia, but this does not worry Simiyu, who outlined that their strategy is to start on a high.
“It’s a tough pool so it has been the norm from the beginning of the season but with the preparations we have had, I am confident we will meet our targets. Our target is to start well in the morning during Day One, to meet our standards consistently and if we can be able to execute the small details well then we are in for a good tournament,” Simiyu outlined.
He added; “We are happy to play in Ls Vegas because we like the support that we get there from our fellow Kenyans. We always play well in Vegas so the players are very eager and they have trained well.”
-Commonwealth Games –
Being a busy season that has the Commonwealth Games coming in April and the World Cup slated in July, Simiyu challenged the squad to work hard and meet the standards he has set for them to earn selection.
He noted that the two major tournaments will be of vital importance to experienced players to at least win a medal before hanging their boots.
“When it comes to selection it’s up to the players to prove themselves. We have set the standards up there, if you make it and play well of cause we will select you,” Simiyu underscored.
“But we cannot deny that having our top players fit and ready to play is key advantage to the team. It will be nice to see a player like Amonde who is turning 35 years to end on a high with a medal,” Simiyu said.
The team is scheduled to depart the country on Saturday, February 24 for Qatar then connect to Las Vegas.
Shujaa squad to Las Vegas, Vancouver 7s
Oscar Ouma(Top Fry Nakuru, Captain), Samuel Oliech (Resolution Impala Saracens, Vice Captain), Andrew Amonde (KCB), Willy Ambaka (SportPesa Quins), Eden Agero (SportPesa Quins),Dan Sikuta (Kabras Sugar), Jeff Oluoch (Menengai Cream Homeboyz), Nelson Oyoo (Top Fry Nakuru), Erick Ombasa (Menengai Oilers), Arthur Owira (KCB), Billy Odhiambo (Stanbic Mwamba), Collins Injera (Stanbic Mwamba), Samuel Ng’ethe (Menengai Oilers)
Management: Innocent Simiyu (Head Coach), Will Webster (Assistant Coach), Geoffrey Kimani (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Lamech Bogonko (Team Physio), Erick Ogweno (Team Manager)