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World Rugby Sevens Series welcomes Kenya with open arms

Rugby
 Kenya Sevens celebrate after a past win.[World Rugby]

King George! The thousands of Kenyans shouted at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid.

“Oh the Kenyans are back!” said the World Rugby commentators when George Ooro scored Shujaa’s fourth try against Germany.

“The Kenyan flamboyance. The Kenyan joy. There are so many reasons as to why Kenya should be back at the World series and one of them is definitely their try scoring celebrations!”

These were the scenes on Sunday when Kenya Sevens roared back to the World Rugby Sevens Series, securing their spot with a resounding 33-15 victory over Germany in the promotion and relegation final playoff held in Spain.

This triumphant return marks the end of a one-year exile in the second-tier World Rugby Challenger Series, reminding the global rugby community of the indomitable spirit of Shujaa.

Led by the dynamic Vincent Onyala, Kenya Sevens showcased a masterclass, blending pace, strength, and creativity to overwhelm their German counterparts.

The electrifying Patrick Odongo blitzed down the wings, leaving defenders in his wake with his blistering speed.

Meanwhile, the creative genius of Brian Tanga, Nygel Amaitsa, and Samwel Asati orchestrated play with sublime skill and tactical nous, slicing through the German defense with precision.

The backbone of Shujaa's dominance lay in the raw power and relentless drive of Kevin Wekesa, John Okoth, and Chrisant Ojwang. These stalwarts bulldozed their way through tackles, providing a solid foundation for Kenya's attacking flair.

The team’s effort was further amplified by standout performances from George Ooro, and Anthony Omondi, whose highlights reel from the final will be remembered by fans for years to come.

 Kenya Sevens in action during the World Rugby Challenger Series.[World Rugby]

Inspired from the touchline by head coach Kevin Wambua and the legendary Andrew Amonde, Kenya Sevens played with a renewed sense of purpose and unity.

Wambua's tactical acumen and Amonde's motivational presence were instrumental in galvanising the team, ensuring that Shujaa played with the heart and passion characteristic of Kenyan rugby.

This victory was particularly significant given the team’s composition, featuring more than eight new faces who brought fresh energy and determination to the squad.

These emerging talents seamlessly integrated with the seasoned players, demonstrating that Kenya Sevens is not only back where it belongs, but also building a formidable future.

The journey back to the top has been arduous, but Kenya Sevens have emerged stronger and more resilient.

The win in Madrid is not just a return to the World Rugby Sevens Series; it is a statement that Shujaa remains a great force on the global stage.

 Kenya Sevens Vincent Onyala celebrates with fans after a past victory.[World Rugby]

Shujaa experienced its fair share of ups and downs last season.

Their story last year is a remarkable tale of resilience and revival in the world of rugby.

Over the years, the team has experienced both the lows of defeat and the highs of success, showcasing the spirit of Kenyan rugby on the global stage.

For years, they had been a force to be reckoned with on the international stage, consistently competing in the prestigious World Rugby Sevens Series.

Shujaa has been a mainstay in the World Rugby Sevens Series since the competition’s inception in 1999-2000, with their best season coming in 2012-13 when they finished fifth​​.

The team’s historic highlight was winning the Singapore Sevens in 2016, defeating Fiji in the final​​.

However, 2023 marked a significant downturn for the team, as they finished 13th in the series​​, culminating in a decisive match where they were relegated from the core competition by Canada in the playoffs.

For the first time in 23 years, Kenya were bundled out of the global competition, leaving many critics doubting their abilities and potential.

The heartbreaking loss sent Kenyan players, technical bench and the new federation officials back to the drawing board.

 Kenya Sevens in action during the World Rugby Challenger Series.[World Rugby]

The Rise

The turnaround for Shujaa began with the Rugby Africa Sevens tournament in 2023.

It was a pivotal moment for Kenyan rugby. Not only was it a chance to claim continental glory, but it also held the key to a coveted ticket to the Paris Olympics set for this year in France. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.

But Shujaa was not about to give up without a fight.

Under the leadership of their new head coach, Kevin ‘Bling’ Wambua, and with the infusion of fresh blood in the form of six debutants, hope was rekindled in the hearts of Kenyan rugby fans.

The debutants, Samuel Asati of KCB, Beldad Ogeta from Menengai Oilers, Patrick Odongo representing Daystar Falcons, Nygel Amaitsa of Strathmore Leos, and Lamec Ambetsa and William Mwanji of Kabras Sugar, were eager to prove their worth on the international stage.

The Rugby Africa Sevens tournament began, and from the outset, it was clear that Shujaa meant business.

The debutants, far from wilting under the pressure, produced a memorable performance that left fans and critics alike in awe.

Their raw talent and unbridled passion for the game shone through, and they quickly integrated themselves into the squad, earning the respect of their more seasoned teammates.

 Kenya Sevens scrum half Brian Tanga (center) in action during the World Rugby Challenger Series.[World Rugby]

Kenya wiped out opponents from the preliminary group stages to the final where they stunned heavyweights South Africa Blitzboks to win Rugby Africa 7s and subsequent qualification to the Paris 2024 Olympics

But the triumph didn’t stop there. Kenya’s success in the Rugby Africa Sevens also earned them a spot in the World Rugby Challenger Series where they finished second before getting to the playoffs in Madrid.

Additionally, Shujaa retained the 2023 Safari Sevens title with a convincing 19-0 win over Samurai 7s.

Shujaa will now shift focus to the Olympic games.

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