Hamilton tournament to open busy year for Shujaa

By Clement Wekulo: Sunday, January 5th 2020 at 06:00 GMT +3 | Rugby
Kenya's Johnstone Olindi races away from the Spain defense for a try on day two of the Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby Sevens 2019 men's competition on 6 December, 2019.[ Photo credit: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby]

The Hamilton Sevens slated for January 25 and 26 in New Zealand will usher in 2020 for Kenya’s Shujaa in what is an activity-filled year for the national team. 

Shujaa is currently 11th on the World Sevens Series standings with 15 points after two legs, 11 more than they had at the same stage during the 2018-19 season. 

The team, which has resumed training following the festive season break, will be keen on building on their momentum from their Cape Town outing in December when the campaign resumes. 

Paul Feeney’s charges will feature at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan in July with the Summer Games undoubtedly the team’s major assignment of the year. 

With eight tournaments in four continents on Kenya Sevens’ roster before they travel to Tokyo, Feeney will be faced with the task of managing fatigue and injuries within his playing unit to avert another disastrous showing in the quadrennial event as witnessed in their debut in Rio in 2016. 

In the Brazilian capital four years ago, Shujaa finished second from bottom after winning only one match, an 11th-place playoff against the hosts.

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After competing in Hamilton, Kenya Sevens will travel to Sydney, Australia one week later before they head to Los Angeles, USA, and Vancouver, Canada in March. 

Feeney has set a top-eight target in the 10-legged World Sevens Series and if Shujaa’s performance at the second leg last month where they lost only once is anything to go by, then the team is well on course to achieve that. 

“We are looking to have a consistent season as we aim for a top-eight finish at the close of the 2019-20 campaign. I am happy with the blend of youth and experience in the squad,” the New Zealander said in a past interview. 

Nondescripts center Oscar Denis remains a doubt for the Oceania trip having injured his cheekbone at the season-opener in Dubai but the side could be boosted by the return of their all-time leading try scorer Collins Injera who has been sidelined for a while. 

The conclusion of the Olympics will set the stage for Shujaa to defend their Africa Sevens title at a yet to be named venue. Kenyans will also be seeking to keep the Safari Sevens trophy which is currently held by their second-string squad, Morans who stunned South Africa in the final of the 2019 edition. 

Back at home, champions KCB will be looking to win a fourth Kenya Cup in a row with Curtis Olago’s charges among the favourites to reach the April 4 final.

The Bankers will also put their National Sevens Circuit title on the line with the likes of Mwamba and Homeboyz expected to provide stiff competition when the shorter version of the game starts in July. 

The Enterprise Cup, which has been intertwined with the Kenya Cup, will kick off next month with the final set to be played on April 18 after which the national men’s 15s team, Simbas will get into action by competing in the annual Elgon Cup.

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