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Shujaa set sights on Tokyo Olympics

RUGBY By Clement Wekulo | February 8th 2021
Shujaa forward Oscar Ouma in past training. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu hopes the return of Kenya Cup league will help his players regain match fitness after 11 months without competitive rugby.

The 2021 Kenya Cup season is scheduled to start on February 27 and conclude with the final on May 29, two months before the delayed Tokyo Olympics takes place in Japan.

"It is very important for us that the players have been allowed to play in the league. Most of them had not done anything for eight months before we started training in November,” Simiyu said.

Simiyu, who was re-appointed Shujaa head coach last year as a replacement for New Zealander Paul Feeney, said the return of local rugby gives more players an opportunity to raise their hands for inclusion in the national team.

“The resumption of the league makes things somewhat fair for everyone unlike how we started by picking those players who were already in the system,” he said.

Simiyu’s charges are scheduled to depart for Madrid, Spain on Sunday to participate in an Inter Regional tournament in preparation for the Summer Games.

Kenya Sevens head coach Innocent Simiyu. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The event, which will be staged over two consecutive weekends between February 20 and 28, will feature some teams that compete in the World Sevens Series and the Shujaa coach believes it will provide a good platform for him to start implementing his philosophy as he begins his second stint.

“Our aim right now is to try and ensure the players regain their match fitness because we have worked on their conditioning for three months. We also intend to use the tournament to implement our structure in terms of attack and defense," said Simiyu.

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"It will also be crucial for us to assess the tactical awareness of the players and where we are, in comparison to the other teams,” said Simiyu.

Shujaa forward Alvin Otieno in a training session at the RFUEA grounds. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

“We have an idea of the teams that will be there and it’s quite a competitive tournament. It will be a good way to gauge where we are at the moment. We shall keep refining the team between now and July until we get the best squad for the Olympics.”

Simiyu bemoaned the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, saying it has been difficult for him to conduct group training.

“It has been very challenging because of the guidelines we have had to adhere to. Getting tested for coronavirus weekly is not easy but we have gotten used to it with time,” said Simiyu.

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