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Shujaa pleased as Series reverts to old format

Kenya Sevens Technical Director Paul Feeney issues instructions to his players during a training session at the RFUEA Grounds on February 20, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 20 – The Shujaa boys are excited that the Los Angeles and Vancouver legs of the World Sevens Series will revert to the old format and offer them a realistic chance of challenging for the Main Cup.

The team saw their chances of an assault at the title at the Hamilton and Sydney legs minimized owing to a change in format that only saw group winners swing straight into the Main Cup semis.

In the old format, the top two teams in each pool progress to the Main Cup quarter finals.

“We are definitely relieved that we have reverted to the old format. The other one was too harsh. For example we were on a tough pool with New Zealand and Fiji and with just one bad game, you find yourself fighting for 15th or 16th place,” Technical Director and Shujaa boss Feeney stated.

He added; “With this old format we get a chance to play at least for ninth or eighth place if things don’t go well. You can have one bad game on day one but bounce back on day two to correct your mistakes. Also, from an experience point of view, the new format gives you a chance of playing six games instead of four so in two weeks, you will have played 12 games.”

Kenya team huddle before the game against Fiji on day one of the HSBC Sydney Sevens 2020 men’s competition at Bankwest Stadium on 1 February, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. Photo credit: Mike Lee – KLC fotos for World Rugby

His sentiments were echoed by skipper Andrew Amonde who has admitted the team struggled with the new format, put up by World Rugby to also accommodate the women’s tournament played on the same ground.

“We were struggling with the new format and it is something that has taken us back on our progress. and for us, we are happy that we are back to the old format. We are looking forward to play in what we are used to,” Amonde stated.

While they did well to finish second in their Hamilton Group, Shujaa clearly struggled in Sydney where they failed to bounce back from their opening day woes to end the tourney without winning a single match.

And now, they head to the North American tour with renewed hope and enthusiasm, Feeney stating they will be going for nothing short of a quarter final berth at both the Los Angeles and Vancouver 7s in Canada.

In LA, Shujaa have been pooled with South Africa who they meet for a fourth time in the series, Ireland and Canada. Shujaa have already beaten the Blitzbokke, having downed them in Hamilton for their first victory since 2015.

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Kenya Sevens players during a training session at the RFUEA Grounds on February 20, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Ahead of the rematch though, both Amonde and Feeney expect the South Africans to come out all guns blazing, but they remain confident they can contain them and get a second victory.

“They always come out strong when we are playing against them. They are a fantastic side, super fit and for us to beat them we have to be at the top of our game and they need to be having bit of an off day. But, it is good confidence that we go into the match knowing that we have beaten them,” Feeney noted.

Amonde added; “Playing South Africa is something we have come to enjoy. It is a challenge that we need to rise to and beat them again. It will be tough but we have worked hard as a team and we want to repeat the result.”

Also facing them in the pool will be Canada and Ireland.

Among the issues that the team has worked on prior to their travel to North America is fitness and mentality, an area they have admitted failed them at the last tour of Hamilton and Sydney.

Especially in Hamilton, the team had considerable leads in all their matches, but let the pot drop at the doorstep in crucial matches against England, japan and Argentina.

Kenya Sevens players during a training session at the RFUEA Grounds on February 20, 2019. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

“We have done a lot of running to improve our levels of fitness as well as the mental part of it. We had a mental coach come in to try and assist us in that area and we have improved quite a lot,” Amonde said.

Also adding; “We have also worked more on our set plays and having the experienced players back is great for us because they know what to do especially under pressure. It is a boost for us and we hope to do well.”

The team is expected to leave the country early next week for LA with their first match scheduled for Saturday February 29 against the South Africans.

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