When the eagerly awaited 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens kicks off tonight in San Francisco, USA, the Kenya Sevens team have one thing in mind; not to underrate their opponents.
With memories of an impressive 2009 and 2013 performance-where they reached the semi-finals on both occassions-still fresh in the minds of a few players, Shujaa cannot afford to underestimate lowly ranked Tonga when the two sides clash in the opening preliminary round match at the iconic AT&T Park.
Though the experienced Kenyan side go into the 11.01pm fixture as favourites after a stellar display in the 2017/2018 World Rugby Sevens Series season that saw them finish eighth with a historic 104 points, coach Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu is not taking chances against the South Pacific Ocean side.
And with a tricky new innovative format coming into place, the former national sevens and fifteens team captain, who was in the 2009 squad that fell 12-0 to Argentina in the 2009 semi-finals in Dubai, wants his charges to take one game at a time.
”It is an interesting format. This knockout format means you have to adapt very first to the chaos in the game because you have to keep winning to stay in it,” said Simiyu.
“The first game versus Tonga will be very critical. We have to start very well and get our game going. We have to hit our performance standards very early, get the results that we want and proceed from there.”
While Shujaa will be going for the World Cup glory, focus will be on Collins Injera, the second highest try scorer in HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series history, who will be making his third World Cup appearance (2009, 2013 and 2018).
The trio of Andrew Amonde, Eden Adero and William Ambaka have also been named in the squad for a second straight World Cup appearance.
“We are aware of the task lying ahead of us. The expectations are high, but we are going to USA to play good rugby and make Kenyans proud,” said Amonde.
Kenya's leading RWC Sevens Tournament Appearances
Collins Injera (2009,2013,2018)
Benjamin Ayimba (2001,2005)
Oscar Osir (2001,2005)
Felix Ochieng (2001,2005)
Innocent Simiyu (2005,2009)
Sidney Ashioya (2005,2009)
Humphrey Kayange (2009,2013)
Biko Adema (2009,2013)
Lavin Asego (2009,2013)
Horace Otieno (2009,2013)
Andrew Amonde (2013,2018)
Willy Ambaka (2013,2018)
Eden Agero (2013, 2018)
Tonight's Round of 16 World Cup fixtures
M1 Kenya v Tonga-11.01pm
M2 Canada v Papua New Guinea-11.23pm
M3 France v Jamaica-11.45pm
M4 Wales v Zimbabwe-12.07am
M5 Samoa v Uganda-12.29am
M6 Russia v Hong Kong-12.51am
M7 Japan v Uruguay-1.13am
M8 Ireland v Chile-1.35am
*Winners progress to round of 16
*Losers drop to bowl
M9 Scotland v Winner M1-5.03am
M10 Argentina v Winner2-5.23am
M11 Australia v Winner3-5.47am
M12 England v Winner5-6.09am
M13 New Zealand v Winner M6-6.31am
M14 Fiji v Winner M7-6.53am
M15 South Africa v Winner M8-7.15am
M16 United States v Winner M4-7.37am
*Winners progress to Championship
*Losers drop to Challenge