Champions Kenya Shujaa open their quest for their ninth Cup success against local side Mwamba as Safari Sevens returns to its traditional grounds, the RFUEA, on Saturday after seven years.
Shujaa will take on Mwamba at 11.50am and will then meet Apache from United Kingdom at 2.50pm before wrapping up against Namibia at 5.50pm in Pool “A”.
However, it’s Kenya Morans, the 2000 champions, who will be the first Kenyan side to take the grounds against the 2016 and 2017 Africa champions Uganda at 10.44am.
Morans will then play former European champions Portugal at 2.06pm before closing their Pool “C” outing against local National Sevens Series champions Homeboyz at 4.44pm.
Shujaa is the strongest of the two teams by virtue of having several players with World Rugby Sevens Series, 2016 Rio Olympics and Rugby World Cup experience.
They are the skipper Eden Agero, who is the captain, his deputy Michael Wanjala, Dennis Ombachi, Charles Omondi, Cyprian Kuto, Alvin Otieno, Leonard "Lord" Mugaisi and Herman Humwa.
“I am using this tournament to fine-tune for the opening leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series later this month in Dubai,” said Kenya Sevens head coach Paul “Pau” Murunga. “This is more or less the squad that I will use at the World Series hence this tournament is important.”
Shujaa face Fiji, Scotland and France in Pool “B” of the Dubai Sevens due November 30 to December 1.
Shujaa failed to defend their title last year after the event failed to kick off. They beat Samurai International 38-21 to lift the 2016 title at the Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. The tournament moved to Nyayo National Stadium in 2011 before heading to Kasarani for the 2013 edition.
Mwamba, who are handled by Louis Kisia will be missing a number of stars, who are with the National 15 team Simbas as well as Shujaa and Morans. The team that will be captained by Brian Kivasia deputised by Steve Sikuta, has new comers Elvis Namusasi and Kibiwott Cheruiyot.
Captain Samuel Motari and Eric Ombasa are the only players with World Rugby Sevens Series experience while the rest are newcomers. Their opener against Uganda Cranes will be a cracker.
Cranes have seasoned Sevens players like Joseph Aredo, Aaron Ofoyirwoth and Desire Ayer. They are joined by Isaac Massa and Muhammad Haruna who were part of Cranes Sevens that relinquished the Africa Sevens title to Zimbabwe last month in Tunisia.
Homeboyz and Portugal also look strong hence Morans will have to dig deep to stop them. Augustine Lugonzo and Bush Mwale are some of the experienced players in Homeboyz side, having played for Kenya Sevens before.
Portugal, who have stepped up their campaign to return to the World Rugby Sevens Series for the 2019/2020 season, also have four players with World Series exposure. They include their skipper Tiago Fernandez, Frederico Caetano, Fabio Conceicao and Joao Granate.
“Our speed will be key to our success at this year’s tournament,” said Portugal coach Antonio Aguilar. “We need these tournaments to polish up ahead of our return to the World Series.”
Pool “B” will also be a cracker with World Rugby Sevens Series side Spain taking on Samurai, Red Wailers from United Kingdom and Emerging Uganda Cranes. Spain face New Zealand, USA and Wales in Pool “C” at Dubai Sevens.