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Kenya begins campaign against boggey side Spain before meeting Mexico, arch rivals S. Africa

By , People Daily Digital
Saturday, September 18th, 2021 00:00 | 3 mins read
Kenya’s Nelson Oyoo (left) is tackled by South Africa’s Branco du Preez during an Olympic match at the Tokyo Stadium in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. Photo/AFP

Kenya national sevens national rugby team is set to kick off their 2021 HSBC World series against Spain at 8.31pm (Kenyan time) at the BC Place stadium in Vancouver, Canada on Saturday.

This is the setting where Shujaa Head Coach Innocent “Namcos” Simiyu will be targeting a semifinal slot. 

Shujaa will wrap up the day’s programme with a match against Mexico at 11.42pm before returning to action on Sunday morning to renew rivalry with South Africa from 3.35am.

Simiyu, a celebrated former national team member, remained confident ahead of the potentially high-octane encounters. 

“It’s a short season where our focus is to get a good platform for our Common Wealth Games and World Cup campaigns.We have no choice but to flex our muscles and eye the quarter finals and semifinals to be in a vantage position to win the cup,” Simiyu’ told Wikendi Sports from Vancouver.

The tactician said the platform is crucial for breeding a new crop of players, most of whom are dotting the competition for their first time ever.

In a nutshell, all teams, not least Kenya, have named debutants who will be angling to show what is up their sleeves.

Among the teams is South Africa who will field six youthful Tokyo Olympians and four debutants who were named in their 13-man squad.

Simiyu reiterated that he has faith in the younger lot, adding that they have been willing to learn in training.

“We have several green horns who are only too eager to showcase their talents. They have improved the team’s diversity in attack and defense and to me, the series will offer the right stage for them to improve on the team’s performance” he said.

The short seasoned World 7s Series will kick off today with a total of 34 matches lined up in the men’s competition that will run concurrently with the women’s.

Shujaa has reached four cup finals this year, twice in Madrid Cup and the same number of times in Solidarity 7s camp in South Africa.

Ideally, Shujaa’s hunger for a medal will require the team to conquer 11 rivals for the title in the competition in which defending champs New Zealand and former rugby kings Fiji will be conspicuously missing.

The opener day should be able to earn Kenya an assured main cup quarterfinals reach courtesy of winning both matches against the noncore sides that were invited to participate in the three-day competition.

Preferably, two wins on a trot will be advantageous for Shujaa who will be geared up for the second day against continental rivals Blitzboks who finished fifth in Tokyo.

The 12-team competition will replicate the same format as the Tokyo Olympics with teams set to know their opponents in the knockout stage on Sunday morning after completing the pool matches. 

Only the first and second placed sides from each of the three pools are assured of a place in the top eight knockouts where the two best losers will complete the pairings.

Kenya has a five-match losing streak to South Africa this year and will be hard pressed to break the jinx.

This leaves Shujaa between a rock and a hard place and, rightly so, the team will be forced to fire in all cylinders to avoid betting on qualifying as one of the two best losers.

Topping the pool will be essential for Shujaa and this way, they will face the second best loser in the other group in pursuit for a qualification ticket.

 But at worst, winding up in the top four will boost Kenya’s chances of nearing the top-three medal bracket that will see one side crowned the overall winner in Edmonton, which is within Canada’s Alberta central region, the following weekend. 

For Kenya, destiny is squarely in their hands as far as contesting for the overall title is concerned and especially given the absence of big guns in defending champs New Zealand, former champs Fiji, Samoa, France, Argentina and Australia.

South Africa will kick off their campaign against Mexico at 7.53pm before tackling Spain thereafter at 11.04pm.

In pool “B”, Great Britain will kick off against Jamaica ahead of the fixture against  Hong Kong before meeting Ireland on Sunday morning.

Hosts Canada and USA are set to thrill fans as they headline pool C where Germany and Chile complete the last group.