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Commonwealth Games: Pure torment as sloppy Shujaa drop ball when it matters most

Rugby
 Kenya’s Johnstone Olindi (R) in action against Jamaica marker during day one of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Coventry Stadium on July 29, 2022 on the Coventry, England. (Kelly Ayodi, Standard)

This is where it all ends for Kenya national Sevens rugby team.

They had dreams. They had goals. They had the push, but their push wasn’t as powerful.

Head coach Damian McGrath’s dreams of winning any silverware with the squad at his home ground were cut short on Saturday night after exiting the 2022 Commonwealth Games currently going on in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Defending champions New Zealand schooled Kenya Sevens how to play some fluid rugby after hammering them 31-0 in the quarterfinals of the Rugby Sevens category at the Coventry Stadium. Despite conceding only three tries in their build-up to the knockout stages, Shujaa were a pale shadow of themselves after they conceded five tries in the defeat to All Blacks.

The result saw Kenya’s poor run in international tournaments this year continue. So, what exactly is ailing Shujaa?Since the beginning of the year, Kenya has not gone past the quarterfinal stage of any tournament after poor results in both the World Rugby Sevens Series, Rugby Africa Cup and now Commonwealth Games.

Currently one of the 15 “core teams” of the World Series and with a guaranteed place in all 10 events each season, many rugby enthusiasts expect Kenya to compete for titles alongside Argentina, Fiji, South Africa and Australia, who are considered world best rugby Sevens teams.

However, Shujaa have been reduced to whipping boys who are always bullied and thrashed at will. In the series, Kenya has not gone past the group stage after poor results in Malaga, Seville, Singapore, Vancouver, Toulouse and London.

In April, Kenya lost to Uganda 22-12 in the semi-finals of the Rugby Sevens Africa Cup in Kampala, Uganda.Shujaa claimed an undesired bronze medal after beating Zambia 19-12 in the tournament that doubled up as the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens Africa qualifier.It’s these string of poor results that saw Kenya Rugby Union fire head coach Innocent Simiyu. The change of guard at Shujaa has, however, done nothing to improve the performance of the team as the squad once again failed to impress at the hands of Briton tactician Damian McGrath.Shujaa started the games on a high note after silencing neighbouring rivals Uganda 27-14 in their opening Group D match on Friday before capping the day off with an excellent 45-0 win over world-renowned sprinting nation Jamaica.With two wins on Friday, Kenya were already assured of a quarterfinal place and faced Australia to determine who will top the pool heading into the knockout stages.Problems, however, started showing during their third pool match against Australia. Kenya lost 7-5.

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