Shujaa face 'Mission Imposibble' in Hong Kong
What you need to know:
- With relegation hanging on their sleeves, Shujaa takes on Series leaders New Zealand in their Pool “D” opening duel of the Hong Kong Sevens at the Hong Kong Stadium at 9.40am on Friday
- They will then confront Ireland at 6.28am before renewing their continental rivalry with South Africa in their last pool outing at 10.25am on Saturday
- Kenya must now pull something magical in the next three legs of the series in Hong Kong, Singapore and Toulouse if they are to avoid relegation play-offs
It’s perhaps one of the most difficult journeys Kenya Sevens team has ever embarked on in the World Rugby Series campaign.
With relegation hanging on their sleeves, Shujaa takes on Series leaders New Zealand in their Pool “D” opening duel of the Hong Kong Sevens at the Hong Kong Stadium at 9.40am on Friday.
They will then confront Ireland at 6.28am before renewing their continental rivalry with South Africa in their last pool outing at 10.25am on Saturday.
Kenya Sevens dropped one place once again to 13th place in the Series despite finishing 10th in Vancouver, the previous leg of the Series. They have 29 points.
Kenya must now pull something magical in the next three legs of the series in Hong Kong, Singapore and Toulouse if they are to avoid relegation play-offs.
Kenya’s opponents in Hong Kong are quite familiar, having met them in the previous legs this season.
They lost to New Zealand, the winners in Sydney and Los Angeles, 31-05 in the preliminary round in Cape Town where they also went down to Dubai Sevens losing finalists Ireland 19-14 in the ninth place quarter-final.
Shujaa also had little to offer against New Zealand, the Dubai Sevens bronze medallists, 33-0 in the preliminaries in Sydney.
They have met South Africa three times this season to win on one occasion.
Shujaa lost to Blitzbokke 27-12 in the pool stage in Dubai where the South Africans went all the way to retain the title, beating Ireland 21-05 in the final.
Shujaa would again go down to Blitzbokke 31-05 in the preliminaries in Sydney where the South Africans dug deep to reach the final before losing to New Zealand 38-0.
Kenya, finally, claimed the scalp of Blitzebokke, beating them 17-12 in the ninth place quarter-finals in Vancouver. Kenya proceeded to beat Spain 24-14 in the semis before losing to Samoa 35-17 in the final.
Head coach Damian McGrath reckons that they are in a “Pool of death” and have a really tough assignment ahead of them.
“I can’t think of a tougher pool to be in…we have reviewed past videos of our opponents and trained as well as we could,” said McGrath, adding that his boys must fight to the end.
“They know what is at stake and our opponent will relish playing us. We really are fighting for our lives and the players understand this despite all the tribulations this year,” said McGrath, noting that a lot has happened behind the scenes that should enable them to give their best shot.
The 15th-placed core team based on accumulated Series points following the 10th round in Toulouse will be relegated.
The 12th, 13th and 14th placed teams at the end of Toulouse will enter a four-team relegation play-off together with the Challenger Series 2023 winners at the 12th and final round of the Series in London.
The relegation play-off will be on round-robin basis with the top two teams then playing in the final.
The winner will become the 12th core team in the 2023/2024 Series, while the other three teams will enter their respective Regional Sevens Challenger Series.
The Challenger will continue to provide a pathway for teams to qualify for the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Subsequently, the top four teams after the final leg of the Series in London will automatically qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
If South Africa don't finish in top four like the previous years when they made it to the 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympics automatically, then they will have to qualify through the Africa qualifier that will now be quite competitive.
Kenya's qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics also looks tight with South Africa having dropped in the standings from third place to seventh place with 89 points after collecting three points in Canada, their worst ever outing in years.