KENYA have rested their national Sevens rugby team stars and will field a second-string side, affectionately known as Shujaa, for the SPAR Zimbabwe International Sevens which will kick off at Harare Sports Club tomorrow ending on Sunday.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The Shujaa side, which was expected in the country last night, is a blend of youth and experience and also features some players who have represented the senior Kenyan side, a core side on the IRB World Sevens Series.
The Shujaa team will be captained by Leon Adongo, the elder brother to rugby union player Daniel Odongo, who plays for South African Super Rugby side Southern Kings.
Leon has garnered previous Sevens World Series experience with the senior Kenya Sevens team.
Felix Ayange will make a comeback as he continues to recover from an Achilles tendon injury sustained during the 2012 Safari Sevens in Nairobi. Others will be youngsters Billy Odhiambo and Cyprian Kuto who made their World Series debuts for Kenya in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in December and Gold Coast in Australia respectively.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong coach Dai Rees is relishing the prospect of playing Kenya’s Shujaa team at the SPAR Zimbabwe International Sevens. Hong Kong have been drawn in Pool B against Shujaa and Zambezi Warriors.
“We are looking at Zimbabwe as first and foremost a training weekend with a tournament rather than going in intent on winning. Our targets are more expansive than winning in Zimbabwe,” coach Dai Rees said. He is the head of performance at the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union.
“Of course it would be great to come back with something from Harare, but what we have been wanting to do all along is to build intensity ahead of the Hong Kong Sevens.”
Hong Kong are one of five representative national teams confirmed for the two-day competition at the Harare Sports Club. The others are hosts Zimbabwe, Georgia, Zambia and Botswana. Prestigious teams from South Africa will also be involved, including the South African Sevens Elite Player Development side and the Bulls Academy team.
Rees said: “It’s ideal to have a fixture versus Kenya as an early introduction to the levels we are going to need to be at, not just for Hong Kong, but also for the London Sevens and Rugby World Cup Sevens over the coming months.
“We are also happy that key South African teams and Zimbabwe will be in action. We don’t want to avoid those games as there is no better way to test yourself than against top-flight teams.”
Shujaa squad: Leon Adongo, Robert Aringo (Impala RFC), Michael Agevi, Daniel Sikuta, Chris Asego (Mwamba RFC), Felix Ayange, Dennis Muhanji (Kenya Harlequin FC), Cyprian Kuto, Billy Odhiambo, Charles Omondi, Tony Onyango (Strathmore University), Oscar Ayodi (Homeboyz)
Officials: Felix Ochieng (Head Coach), Bronson Weir (Assistant Coach), Michael Odhiambo (Strength and Conditioning Coach), Chris Makachia (Physio), Newton Ongalo (Team Manager).
Hong Kong Squad: Anthony Haynes, Simon Leung Ho- yam, Kwok Ka-chun, Tsang Hing-hung, Jamie Hood, Rowan Varty (captain), Salom Yiu Kam-shing, Alex McQueen, Cado Lee Ka-to, Nick Hewson, Tom McQueen, Lee Jones, Ben Rimene, Fan Shun-kei.