Kenya Sevens will be hoping to break the Cup semis jinx for the second time this season when they open their World Rugby series Las Vegas Sevens quest against Russia in a Pool A match at 3:13am Saturday at the Sam Boyd Stadium.
Kenya then face familiar Portugal at 6:14am. But the main test of day one should come against one of the three joint Series leaders New Zealand at 10:54am.
Even though it’s been a mixed bag of performance for Kenya after four rounds this season, they have shown marked improvement from the previous season where they only reached one Cup quarters.
Their best result this season under coach Benjamin Ayimba has been a fourth place finish in Cape Town where they stunned South Africa. It was their first semi-final appearance since 2012-2013 season.
They reached the Cup quarters in Wellington and Sydney only to drop to Plate.
Kenya currently sit eighth overall in the standings with 42 points, having collected 22 points from the previous legs of Wellington and Sydney Sevens.
Australia, runners-up on home soil in Sydney, meet England, Scotland and Japan in Pool B while Ben Ryan’s Fiji await Argentina, Samoa and France in possibly the toughest of the four pools, and an exact repeat of the Sydney event, in Pool C.
Hosts USA, who ended the Sydney Sevens tournament with a 24-21 loss to Kenya, having held a 21-0 lead at half-time, are in Pool D and face South Africa, Wales and north American rivals Canada in a mouth-watering clash.
Once again the team will expect massive support from their large Vegas fan base of Kenyan residents and tourists, one thing that has always been consistent in the Series.
It’s one factor that utility back Samuel Oliech, who is making his debut for Kenya Sevens, believes will give them the needed push to challenge the big boys. “Personally, I want to leave a memorable mark there,” said Oliech.
Dennis Ombachi, who is making his first appearance this season, having helped Kenya qualify for the Rio Olympics in November last year, said he was looking forward to a great return in Las Vegas.
Ombachi noted that Las Vegas was like a home tournament for Kenya.
“It’s a massive boost. You see how much people love sevens. It gives us an extra motivation to performance well in every game,” Ombachi said. “You need fans to back you. Once you get the fans, you need to provide them with a good performance and it’s something we want to do in Vegas.”
Kenya last met New Zealand and Portugal at Wellington Sevens.
They edged out the Portuguese 26-5 in the pool stage but failed to beat All Blacks, losing 0-36 in Cup quarters. There last meeting with Russia was at Sydney Sevens where they prevailed 24-10 in the poll stage on their way to the Cup quarters.
After retaining Wellington title, All Blacks matched on to claim a double, beating hosts Australia 17-14 in a cracking final at Sydney. The victory saw New Zealand catch up with leaders Fiji, who won in Dubai and Cape Town Sevens winners South Africa at the top with both teams tying on 69 points apiece.