NAIROBI, (Xinhua) — Kenya is keen to turn around its fortunes when the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens series resumes with the fourth and fifth stops in New Zealand and USA next week.
Having struggled in the first three tournaments in Australia, United Arab Emirates and South Africa, head coach Mitch Ocholla expressed hope on Wednesday his charges will be able to turn around their fortune in Wellington and USA.
Ocholla dropped his earlier plan of using inexperienced players as he drafted in veteran stars that saw the return to the team of Collins Injera and former captain Humfreys Kayange.
Others who have been recalled in the 12-member team are Lavin Asego, Victor Oduor, Michael Wanjala, David Ambunya and Linus Simiyu. The team departs Saturday for Wellington.
The selection sends out a clear message on what the expectations of the country are and Ocholla reaffirmed this saying at least two wins in the pool stage will secure them passage to the Main Cup.
Kenya struggled in the first three rounds but the coach is confident, the dry spell is finally over and is looking forward to a good run when the IRB sevens series resume on February 3-4 in New Zealand. The USA leg is from February 10-12.
“We tried to bring in new players and that did not go well. But I too still have several injuries to look at and that is why I have delayed naming the team. But we will see who makes it, because the next rounds are crucial to us,” he said.
Ocholla held on to Sidney Ashioya as his preferred captain though. But he will feel confident with the return of experienced players in the squad.
Winning just two matches in the pool stage is the minimum the coach is expecting from his squad.
Kenya was one of the bigwigs in Sevens rugby and was a regular contender for the main cup, but that form has been lost in the last two years as the country struggle to remain combative at this stage of the competition. This coupled with a regime change in its administration has not helped the country match.
But the coach is finally asserting his authority as he seeks control over the team, which was mold by his predecessor Benjamin Ayimba.
KRU chairman Mwangi Muthee. Photo/CHRIS OMOLLO
“We need to be on alert and keep our focus whenever we meet these big teams. It is crucial to reclaim our glory and as the series resumes. We must be at our best and target at least two wins during the pool matches, which will put us in good position to qualify for the next round in the Main Cup,” he said.
“We will take each game differently and build on from there. The key thing for Kenya Sevens is to improve on the performances from the opening three legs. We have included Kayange, whose departure to the United Kingdom for further studies in Bristol has been held back slightly owing to a delay in processing of his travel papers.”
Mwangi Muthee, the Kenya Rugby Union Chairman, urged the team to put up a better show than last year’s campaign.
“We have fine tuned the squad travelling to New Zealand and the USA with the aim of improving on our performances during the last legs of the series. We have included a number of players who had been unavailable owing to work and academic commitments,” he said.