Eight times Safari Sevens champions Kenya Shujaa launch their quest to recapture the title against Zambia at 10.50am Saturday when this year’s tournament gets underway at Rugby Football Union of East Africa ground.
Shujaa will then take on Waisale Serevi’s Russia Academy at 2pm before wrapping up their day one Pool “C” assignments against Blue Bulls from South Africa at 5.10pm.
“We have had eight weeks of training and I think it’s enough time to fine tune and string up a few things. We want to try them out at Safari Sevens as we look at the bigger picture,” said Shujaa captain Andrew Amonde adding that their main target is the Africa qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics next month.
Amonde noted that South Africa, who for the first time have brought in their top side, defending champions Samurai and Spain, are some of the teams to watch.
“We really appreciate the gesture by Blitzbokke for sending a team. This is the challenge we need to be able to try our systems and know what will work and not,” said Amonde. “It won’t be easy but we have to put in a good shift and get better winning combinations.”
Speedster Collins Injera, who is making a return after one season, said they will go full throttle and try to reclaim the title they won last in 2016.
However, Injera was aware of what to expect at the event that has for the first time in many years drawn top class teams including Africa Cup Sevens champions Zimbabwe.
“Blitzbokke are a core World Rugby Series side, having won the Series thrice.
“Spain performed well last season while Samurai has a combination of players drawn from World Rugby Sevens Series core teams like England, Australia and France. It’s a tricky affair,” said Injera.
Besides Amonde and Injera, the return of William “Lomu” Ambaka alongside Nelson Oyoo is a big boost to Shujaa. The team also has last season’s skipper Jacob Ojee, Bush Mwale, Michael Wanjala and new kids on the block Daniel Taabu and Oscar Dennis.
Perhaps the battle between Morans and Blitzbokke at 12.40pm will be of great interest after the two sides will have opened their Pool “A” accounts against Uganda Cranes and Burundi at 9.30am and 9.50am respectively.
Initially, South Africa had been represented by the Emerging Boks, winners of the 2006 and 2007 Safari Sevens and South Africa Elite Programme Development that clinched the 2012 title.
Morans will be eying their second Safari Sevens accolades, having won the 2000 diadem as Shujaa “A” with Michael Wokorach’s powered Cranes eying their maiden victory.
“Definitely Morans are in a tougher pool but the harder the pool the better since it will give us a good platform to test our systems,” said Feeney.
Jeff Oluoch leads the Morans side that has Dan Sikuta and several players who put in their hands for last season’s World Series after the senior players opted out.
It will definitely be a joy to watch Blitzbokke especially their speedster and playmaker Cecil Afrika, who will be having a strong backup of fellow World Series players Siviwe Soyizwapi, Stedman Gans, Selvyn Davids, Angelo David, James Murphy and Impi Visser.
On paper, Blitzbokke are favourite to lift this year’s title.
Wokorach and Solomon Okia, who are well known locally, lead Cranes. Samurai squad is laden with several players, who have World Sevens Series including team captain Tom Connor a regular in Australia Sevens team.
His deputy W.J. Strydom has also featured for Blitzbokke in the World Series and Charlie Tupu for Australia.