Murunga confident as Shujaa head to Hamilton

By Clement Wekulo: Sunday, January 20th 2019 at 00:01 GMT +3 | Rugby
Coach Paul Murunga of Rugby 7s during training at RFUA grounds on Monday Oct 22, 2018. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The national team will face South Africa, France and Scotland in the preliminaries. 

National Sevens head coach Paul Murunga is optimistic his charges will put up a good show at the Hamilton and Sydney tournaments. 

The Hamilton leg, which is the third tournament of the 2018-19 World Sevens Series, is scheduled for next weekend in New Zealand. The Sydney Sevens will take place in Australia one week later.

With senior members of the squad unavailable for selection owing to a contractual row with the Kenya Rugby Union(KRU), Murunga will once again be forced to rely on young guns just as was the case in Dubai and Cape Town last year. 

“I feel much challenged to work without the experienced boys. If I was to put in 8 hours then I would increase it to 12 just to ensure the young players are able to compete favourably,” Murunga said. 

At least 16 experienced players among them Collins Injera, Willy Ambaka, Daniel Sikuta and Oscar Ayodi are on a go-slow, as they are opposed to KRU’s decision to slash their salaries.

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This, even as KRU chairman Richard Omwela maintains the union is cash-strapped and can no longer sustain the player’s previous perks until a title sponsor comes on board. 

The tug-of-war between the senior players and their employer has left Murunga with no choice but to entrust the youthful members of the squad with the task of carrying the nation’s hopes. 

Despite the off-field challenges, the coach is confident that Shujaa, which is currently ranked 14th on the World standings,will perform well. 

“I think it’s good for me to create a new pool of players who can help the country in future,” said Murunga. 

In the squad that will do duty in Hamilton and Sydney,he has included five first-timers, one of them being former Kenya U20 player Harold Anduvate. 

Other debutants include Homeboyz duo Mark Wandeto and Brian Wandera as well as Eliakim Kichoi and William Reeve. 

“We have already exposed five rookies in the first two legs and hopefully, we shall have more coming in to ensure their is adequate competition for places,” Murunga said. 

Shujaa,who departed for Hamilton yesterday, have managed only two wins from the opening two rounds of the series.

In Hamilton,they are drawn in Pool C alongside series defending champions South Africa,Scotland and France and Murunga is preaching belief. 

“In Sevens it is possible to beat any team.It all depends on your level of preparedness,” he said. 

The 2018-19 World Sevens Series serves as a route to next year’s Tokyo Olympics with the top four countries at the end of the series sealing automatic qualification for the quadrennial showpiece.