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Kenya Sevens Rugby’s moment of truth

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Germany’s Johann Eschenbach (right) tackles Kenya’s Vincent Onyala during Safari Sevens rugby tournament on November 19 last year at RFUEA ground.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo| Nation

“Wakati ni sasa.” (time for action is now).

That is the rallying call from Kenya Sevens captain Vincent Onyala as Kenya heads to make-or-break World Rugby Sevens Series promotion and relegation play-offs starting today in Madrid.

“Proper decision-making is key at this stage but the boys are confident and know what to do to deliver results so as to qualify to return to the world series,” said Onyala.

Onyala reckons that the youngsters in the squad are eager to show what they have to offer.

“That freshness is what will work for us because we have unknown qualities,” he explained.

Kenya Sevens play Samoa at 6.25pm (Kenyan time) in the opening match in Pool “B”, and take on hosts Spain at 10.18pm. The team will finish its campaign in the first phase of the qualifier tournament against Chile at 8.18pm tomorrow.

Uruguay who are fresh from winning the World Rugby Challenger Series, will play the United States of America, Canada, and Germany, in Pool “A.”

The winners of Pool ‘A’ will play the fourth-ranked team from Pool ‘B’, while runners-up in Pool ‘A’ will play the team that finishes third in Pool ‘B’ in the quarter-finals. The third-placed team from Pool ‘A’ will play Pool ‘B’ runners-up in the quarter-finals, while the fourth-placed team in Pool ‘A’ plays the top team from Pool ‘B.’

Four successful nations from the promotion and relegation play-off quarter-finals will be promoted to the 2024/2025 World Rugby Sevens Series, while the other four teams will enter qualification tournaments in their respective regions to earn the right to compete in the 2025 World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

Co-captain Tony Omondi, who missed the second day in Munich leg of the World Rugby Challenger Series due to injury has been retained in the squad that also has newcomer Brian Mutua.

The other members of the squad are Kevin Wekesa, John Okoth, Brian Tanga, George Ooro, Patrick Odongo, Samuel Asati, Herman Humwa, Nygel Amaitsa, Lamec Ambetsa and Chrisant Ojwang.

The ending season marked the first time in 23 years that Kenya missed the World Rugby Sevens Series. Kenya did not get invited to some events as is normally the case owing to a new 12-team format for the 2023/2024 Series by World Rugby.

Kenya Sevens earned its first call for the World Rugby Sevens Series in 2000/2001 season before becoming the core team in the 2004/2005 season.

Their hopes now are to see themselves get back into the Series for the 2024/2025 series.

Uruguay won the Challenger Series 56 points following victory on home soil in Montevideo and Munich, to add to their bronze medal at the opening round in Dubai.

Kenya were winners in Dubai claiming second place also on 48 points, ahead of Chile on 46 points and Germany on 44 points, who sealed the last place in the Challenger Series.

Onyala said that his side that has already qualified for the Paris Olympic Games by shocking South Africa’s Blitzboks 17-12 in the African Cup in Zimbabwe last year, is all set for the defining moment.

The team didn’t return home after the last leg of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger in Munch, proceeding to Miramas in France, where they pitched a 10- day training camp, ahead of their Pool B clash.

Kenya last time beat Samoa was at the pool stage in South Africa Sevens 24-19 during the 2019/2020 World Rugby Sevens Series. Since then Samoa, the 2009/2010 series champions, have beaten Kenya eight times but Shujaa knows the task ahead.

Kenya and Spain last met at the Singapore Sevens during the 2023/2024 season where Shujaa lost 26-10 in the ninth place final while they last faced Chile in the last pool match of the Munich leg of the Challenger Series where they won with a sudden death try 17-12.

Co-captain Tony Omondi, who missed the second day in Munich leg of the World Rugby Challenger Series due to injury has been retained in the squad that also has newcomer Brian Mutua.

Kevin Wekesa, John Okoth, Brian Tanga, George Ooro, Patrick Odongo, Samuel Asati, Herman Humwa, Nygel Amaitsa, Lamec Ambetsa and Chrisant Ojwang will be eager to deliver Shujaa back to the series.