Kenya 7s Shujaa has stepped up preparations for the upcoming Safari sevens set for 9-11 November, 2018 at the RFUEA grounds with momentous training over the week at the same venue.
Under head coach Paul 'Pau' Murunga and his assistant Kevin Wambua, the team underwent training on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to complete the weeks' schedule.
Speaking after one of the sessions, Pau talked of a new look squad for the upcoming event that he will use as the perfect platform to tune up for the upcoming HSBC World Sevens Series that kicks off two weeks after Safari 7s - on 29 and 30 November.
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For the upcoming events Pau confirms he will also miss the services of Billy Odhiambo, Brian Tanga and Arthur Owira but is hopeful that big unit Dan Sikuta, Eric Ombasa and Jeff Oluoch will be available for selection.
Arthur Owira who suffered a leg break during the Commonwealth Games in April is still unavailable. To add depth he has since called up Machine captain Shadon Munoko to the training squad.
Jeff Oluoch, who clocked the full ten legs in the ended 2017/18 season under immediate former Kenya 7s coach Innocent Simiyu, is a great consideration, not for Safari 7s but for Dubai 7s, should he recover in time.
"Jeff has a hairline fracture on his wrist. Should he recover in good time he may make the squad to Dubai. We still don't expect Owira who is still recuperating,"
Dan Sikuta, who featured in five of the ten legs last season, is also a consideration; “He is yet to train with us as he is awaiting authority from his club Kabras. Once available he will be in the bracket for selection,”
“Billy had a jaw knock at Dala (Sevens) and won’t be back in time for the Dubai leg and Tanga has to complete his semesters. The earliest I expect his services is in March next year,”
"Ombasa had an ankle injury but we expect him to be ok while Bunyasi has a knee injury that needs to be checked then we can confirm if he needs to go for surgery or not,"
His camp is devoid of five other players Sammy Oliech, Nelson Oyoo, Collins Injera, Willy Ambaka and Andrew Amonde who were called in to boost the Kenya 15s squad to help push through the repechage in Marseille, France, as Kenya faces Canada, Hong Kong and Germany for the 20th and final 2019 World Cup place in Japan. The five were all named in the France-bound 30-man squad.
With some stalwarts unavailable, opportunity fully opens up for a budding crop of players who are angling to don Kenya 7s jerseys.
“Over the years we have mostly been having senior players in the squad for depth and good results. But this time expect to see the reverse - more new players and a few senior players to guide them,”
“I am out to build a new squad this season then refine the results in the next season with view of qualifying for the Olympics. Seasons later we will have a fully-fledged squad to gun for a place in the 2022 World Cup,”
There's a whole list of young players coming through the ranks up for consideration in upcoming assignments, some of whom he has described as 'the future of Kenya 7s'.
Daniel Taabu, the 2018 National Sevens Circuit top point scorer, best converter and Most Valuable player, former Nanyuki Jackals winger Mark Wandeto who top scored in tries in the circuit and Johnstone Olindi, a former Upper Hill and Laiser Hill alumnus, are in the larger Kenya 7s squad for the season.
“These are young players who have a lot to offer. Hey all shone at the ended National Sevens circuit, proved themselves and were the pick of many as the next crop of sevens players,”
“Wandeto is a gifted, is outstanding and a fast choice winger and Taabu is proving to be the perfect play maker and a very good kicker. Olindi is sure with his boot and starts. If well nurtured they are the players to look out for in days to come.” He added
Taabu’s acumen was on parade at the just ended Africa 7s Cup in Tunisia where he gave a man of the tournament performance in leading Kenya to the silver medal.
Olindi and Wandeto could have joined him but both missed out due to lack of paperwork. They are however expected to don Kenya 7s jerseys during the upcoming Safari 7s set for 9-10 November at the RFUEA grounds.
Mwamba sevens skipper Eliakim Kichoi, who made his debut for Kenya 7s at the Africa 7s alongside Benjamin Marshall of Nondies, Timothy Mmasi from MMUST, Brian Wandera (Homeboyz), Harold Anduvati (Oilers), Philip Kwame of Nakuru and Herman Humwa who featured in Dubai last year are some of the players who will be contesting forwards positions.
Homeboyz captain Leonard Mugaisi, Blak Blad's Brian Wahinya, KCB's Ahmed Shaban, Derrick Keyoga of Menengai Oilers and Gramwel Bunyasi are some of those battling out for backs positions.
Confirmed teams for Safari sevens include 2015 Champions and 2016 finalists Samurai, Spain, Portugal, Golden Lions, Uganda, Red Wailers, Portugal, Germany, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Rwanda, Fiji Barracudas and South African side Western Province.
As Shujaa look to face the aforementioned in the coming weeks, they will have a view of Dubai 7s where they are banded in Pool B alongside the indomitable Fiji, France and Scotland.