Improving Kenya 7s target semis show in Hamilton

Friday February 2 2018

Samuel Oliech of Kenya (top) competes for the ball with Tavite Veredamu of France (centre) as Willy Ambaka of Kenya looks on during the Sydney World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Sydney on January 27, 2018. PHOTO | MARK EVANS |

Samuel Oliech of Kenya (top) competes for the ball with Tavite Veredamu of France (centre) as Willy Ambaka of Kenya looks on during the Sydney World Rugby Sevens Series tournament in Sydney on January 27, 2018. PHOTO | MARK EVANS |  AFP

By AYUMBA AYODI
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Innocent Simiyu and his Kenya Sevens charges will be looking for the elusive main Cup semis appearance in this season’s World Rugby Series fourth leg in Hamilton New Zealand this weekend.

The East Africans open their campaign with a tricky looking Pool “D” outing against Samoa at 1am Saturday at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton.

Kenya, who are looking to improve on their Sydney Sevens seventh finish, will then take Canada at 4.26am before wrapping up Day One’s action against a Mike Friday’s United States at 8.22am.

On paper, Kenya Sevens, who improved from a 13th place finish in South Africa to finish seventh in Sydney, after losing to Fiji 24-5 in the Fifth place semi-finals, have a good chance of making their third Cup quarter-finals of the season.

“We have a tough pool but I believe we have done our homework well and trust the players will play with pride and impress us all,” said Kenya coach Simiyu.

“Our key focus is to meet our performance targets especially in attack. Hopefully, we will get the results we all want.”

SAMOA FIRST UP

Revisiting his team’s display in Sydney, Simiyu said his charges played well and hopes that they have a lot to play for in Hamilton.

But it will be key for Kenya to win their first match against the Samoans who are yet to rebuild a team that can emulate their great side of the last decade that even won the Series in 2010.

Kenya though may have something to worry going by current form. They lost to Samoa 19-15 at Challenge Trophy quarter-finals in South Africa in December in their only meeting thus far this season.

Kenya scaled two places to ninth in the Series with 23 points while USA, the only side in the pool that is ranked above Kenya in seventh place with 28 points, lost to Argentina 31-10 in the play-off for bronze in Sydney.

USA, featuring the pacy Perry Baker, convincingly shut out Kenya 47-0 last season in the pool stages in London.

LOST TO CANADA

Shujaa met Canada, currently ranked 10th, at Dubai Sevens in December where they won 29-15 in the pool stages.

Friday’s charges have been on the rise this season, having started badly to finish last in the opening leg of Dubai. They reached the Cup quarters in South Africa and Australia where they finished sixth and fourth respectively.

Just like Kenya, Canada have 23 points but in 10th place and are closely followed by Samoa with 22 points, which makes the Hamilton battle too close to call.

Dubai Sevens winner South Africa, who lost to hosts Australia 29-0 in the Cup final in Sydney on Sunday, were drawn alongside England in an easy-looking Pool “B” that also has Russia and Papua New Guinea.

Despite their defeat to the Aussies, the Blitzbokke dislodged South Africa Sevens champions New Zealand from the top of the Series standings with 58 points.

Blitzbokke should have little trouble progressing to the next round as England are currently sixth in the standings with 17 points.

Australia headline Pool A alongside Fiji, Wales and Spain while Argentina and New Zealand will be favoured to progress to the quarter-finals from Pool C where they are grouped with France and Scotland.

Last year, Kenya claimed the Challenge Trophy, beating Australia 19-17 in the final of the New Zealand Sevens that was held in Wellington before being moved to Hamilton for this season.

POOLS

Pool A: Australia, Fiji, Wales, Spain

Pool B: South Africa, England, Russia, Papua New Guinea.

Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, France, Scotland

Pool D: USA, Kenya, Samoa, Canada