After surviving relegation in a calamitous 2018-2019 World Rugby Sevens World Series campaign, Kenya’s Shujaa want to begin the new season on a high in Dubai Sevens on December 5-7.
Speaking in Nairobi on Thursday after unveiling the squad that will do duty for Kenya in the first two legs of the 2019-2020 season, Kenya Sevens Head Coach Paul Feeney said, “We want to make the quarters in Dubai. To do that we have to knockout South Africa, England and Spain.”
The East Africans, who finished 13th last season with 37 points, survived the chop in the last (10th) leg in Paris, the only leg they reached Cup quarter-final.
They will open their Dubai Sevens campaign against heavyweights South Africa on December 5 at 6.54pm Kenyan time in Pool “D” fixture.
Feeney’s charges will then clash with England on December 6 (12.26pm), before completing their group against Spain on December 6 (6.32pm).
The coach from New Zealand has been boosted by the return of seasoned players William Ambaka, Billy Odhiambo, Daniel Sikuta and Nelson Oyoo who shunned last season’s action due to the stand-off with Kenya Rugby Union on slashed salaries.
However, Feeney will miss the services of former Series top try scorer Collins Injera, who is not fit.
“Collins (Injera) is about 85 percent fit. He is doing all the non-contact training. We are not going to risk him for the first two legs,” said Feeney on Injera’s absence from the squad to Dubai and Cape Town.
Andrew Amonde, who is one of the most experienced players in Shujaa team that featured in last season’s action, is back to Captain the 2016 Singapore Sevens champions in the Series.
Last season, Shujaa, then under Paul Murunga, used Jacob Ojee or Jeffery Oluoch as Captain.
Amonde captained Shujaa in the Safari Sevens in October. “Our main focus is to get it right from the beginning. We are looking forward to a good tournament,” said Amonde after Feeney kept faith in him.
Kenya finished last (15th) with one point in Dubai last year, so Shujaa will have to work extra hard to outdo former champions South Africa and England and not-to-be-underestimated Spain to reach Cup quarterfinal.
One of the players Kenya will be banking on highly for a better outing in Dubai than last year is Vincent Onyala.
The youngster top scored in this year’s national sevens circuit with 29 tries as KCB ran away with the title. He was also one of the players that shone for Kenya in the 2018-2019 Sevens World Series.
Kenya Sevens squad:
Andrew Amonde (Captain), Jacob Ojee, Jeffery Oluoch, Alvin Otieno, Nelson Oyoo, Vincent Onyala, Johnstone Olindi, William Ambaka, Billy Odhiambo, Oscar Dennis, Daniel Taabu, Bush Mwale and Daniel Sikuta.