Kenya should brace themselves for a different format at this year’s World Cup, which some of the local tacticians have described as interesting and tricky but manageable.
Unlike before where teams where slotted into four pools with previous semi-finalists gaining automatic qualification, World Rugby went with the seeding from the 2016/2017 World Sevens Series through to the first eight legs of the 2017/2018 Series.
With no pool format this time round, the top eight teams have been given a bye to Round of 16 with Kenya, seeded number nine facing off with 14 other teams in the pre-qualifying knock-outs on July 20 according to the scheduled released on Tuesday night by World Rugby.
Kenya will face-off with Tonga for the right to play eighth seeded Scotland in the Round of 16 during the three-day Rugby World Cup Sevens set for the iconic AT&T Park in San Francisco, USA.
Should they pass this hurdle, Innocent Simiyu’s side will face old-rivals and top seeded South Africa in the quarter-finals. A daunting prospect.
Of course, that is if Blitzebokke beat the winner between Ireland and Chile in the Round of 16.
“It’s an interesting format but our opponents are manageable,” said Kenya Sevens team manager Eric Ogweno.
“I think we have a good chance of reaching the top four.”
However, Ogweno opined that their toughest hurdle could be South Africa, whom they have lost to four times this season. “It has been a while since we beat South Africa but the margins have been reducing,” said Ogweno. “They are beatable and all we need to do is fix a few things.”
Kenya beat South Africa last 14-12 during the pool stage of Cape Town leg of the 2015/2016 Series when the team was still under Felix “Toti” Ochieng.
“WR are trying to be innovative by going with the recent form in the series but it’s a bit confusing since Kenya reached the semis in 2013,” said Toti, adding that Kenya should go past Tonga and Scotland based on their current form.
However, Impala Saracens director of coaching Fred Ollows warned Kenya Sevens to be wary of the new format.
“It’s a World Cup and the stage and mindset is different,” said Ollows. “Tonga might not have beaten us in a long time but all games will be full of pressure.”
RWC pre-qualifier (quarters)
Kenya v Tonga meet Scotland
Canada v PNG meet Argentina
France v Jamaica meet Australia
Wales v Zimbabwe meet England
Samoa v Uganda meet New Zealand
Russia v Hong Kong meet Fiji
Japan v Uruguay meet SA
Ireland v Chile meet USA