HARBOURING HOPES: Kenya 7s seeks to bounce back in Las Vegas

Kenya's Billy Odhiambo vies with France's Stephen Parez during the World Rugby Men's Seven Series match between Kenya and France on December 2, 2016 in Dubai. / AFP PHOTO / STRINGER

Kenya Sevens rugby team will be hoping to bounce back from their dismal performance in Sydney when the sixth leg of the 2016/17 HSBC Sevens World Series gets underway at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, USA this weekend (March 3-5).

Shujaa, who garnered a paltry ten points from their last two legs, Wellington (8) and Sydney (2), will face New Zealand’s All Blacks in a crunch Pool C opening match on Saturday morning (4.15am EAT) before locking horns with Argentina at 6.52am EAT. They will wrap up their preliminary round against Russia on Sunday morning (1.12am EAT).

Just like Kenya, fourth placed New Zealand have had a stuttering start to the season as they have managed to collect 56 points from the first four legs, 29 points ahead of 11th ranked Shujaa.

But having met all the three sides before and considering that Las Vegas has been kind to the Singapore champions, Kenya coach Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu is optimistic of a good showing in North America.

“We are in an exciting pool in Vegas with familiar opponents. But with determination and focus we look forward to qualifying and challenging for the cup. I believe playing in Las Vegas has always been good for us because it is like playing at home. So, expect an improved performance in Vegas. My target in this tour is to get back our firing power,” said Simiyu during the squad unveiling ceremony at the RFUEA Grounds.

However, the former national sevens and fifteens captain is wary of the threat posed by New Zealand.

“New Zealand are quite an experienced side, they could be facing the challenges we have as they started late also. But you have to look at the team that played last year and even in our team, only a few players are still in the team.

“There are dynamics of change and you know in sevens two or three players change the dynamic of the team so this year we have to look at it in the context of this year and the parameters of this year.

“In terms of physicality I don’t think Argentina and Russia can match us. New Zealand will be a tough opponent; they can run and are quite physical in the approach at the breakdown. So, we will be looking at how we can counter that and keep the ball alive. But it will all depend on how we move them and keep the intensity of the game.”

Having handed debuts to a number of players in Wellington and Sydney tournaments, the All Blacks coach Scott Waldrom is confident of doing well this weekend.

“The team lifted their performance in Sydney after a disappointing tournament in Wellington. We showed in Sydney that we can compete against the top teams in the series, but in order for us to win Las Vegas we have to maintain our consistency,” Waldrom told the All Blacks website.