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Kenya’s unity bearing fruit as Sevens rugby coach sets target for national team

RUGBY By Rodgers Eshitemi | February 4th 2016
RUGBYU-SEVENS-ENG-KEN Richard de Carpentier (C) of England is tackled by three players from Kenya during their rugby match of the Dubai leg of IRB's Sevens World Series on December 4, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARWAN NAAMANI

Kenya Sevens rugby head coach Benjamin Ayimba believes a top-five finish is a realistic target in the IRB series.

Shujaa had its worst performance in many years last season when they flirted with relegation for the better part of the season, before eventually finishing 13th with a paltry 46 points.

But Ayimba seems to be turning around their fortunes since his re-appointment as the head tactician. The team is now eighth in the overall World Seven Series standings with 30 points after a fairly impressive start.

Shujaa started off the campaign on a bad note, garnering only five points from the Dubai leg after falling 33-7 to France in the bowl semi-final.

However, they responded quickly and bounced back in the second leg in Cape Town where they reached the Main Cup semi-final, but lost to Argentina 26-14. They also lost to France in the third-place play-offs.

Ayimba’s men were equally in a fine form in the Wellington leg, winning their first two Group D matches against Canada (37-7) and Portugal (26-5) but lost 17-12 to Australia and 36-0 to hosts and champions New Zealand in the quarter final.

Kenya then lost 35-14 to Argentina in the plate semi-final.

But as the team prepares for this weekend’s fourth leg in Sydney, Australia, where they have been drawn in Pool B against series leaders and rivals South Africa, Russia and Scotland, Ayimba says they have corrected their mistakes and are eager to top the Group.

“All we want is to do well this year and improve on last season’s overall position. But from our recent results and the mood in the camp, I think a top five-finish is quite realistic. I believe it is achievable,’ Ayimba said on phone from Sydney.

“We always expect to top the pool and that is our priority. We are working on the breakdown point, which has cost us in terms of penalties conceded.

“The positive thing is that we don’t have any fresh injuries and everybody is ready to bounce back from the Wellington performance.”

Commenting on assistant captain and record-chasing Collins Injera’s performance so far, Ayimba said;

“Injera is just playing his role in the team and that’s what he is concentrating on right now. The tries will be as a result of that.”

Injera, third in the all-time scoring chart, scored his 213th try against Argentina on Sunday and is now seven tries behind England legend Ben Gollings and 17 behind Argentina’s current head coach Santiago Gomez Cora.

Kenya will kick-off their Sydney campaign on Saturday morning with a tie against Russia at 4:06am before playing Scotland at 7:24am. They will wrap up their pool fixtures against South Africa at 11:05am.

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