Shujaa seek to replicate their 2013 World Cup success in SA

Kenya's Billy Odhiambo and Collins Injera in action against Harry McNulty of Ireland during their Group match at Tokyo 2020 Olympics. [Reuters].

All eyes will be on Kenya Sevens when they make their sixth consecutive appearance at the Rugby World Cup Sevens finals set to kick off on Friday in South Africa.

Commonly referred to as Shujaa, the Damian McGrath coached side have been at every World Cup final since making their debut in 2001 at the Mar del Plata in Argentina.

However, a lot will be at stake when the Briton leads the inconsistent Shujaa side at the global showpiece.

Whether in rugby sevens or fifteens, South Africa are the team to beat if their explosive performances on the global stage is anything to go by.

The Springboks are the World Cup defending champions after winning the 15s title in 2019 while their sevens counterparts Blitzboks are the 2022 Commonwealth Games champions.

For Kenya, the team has been blowing hot and cold this year with their best performance being reaching the Commonwealth Games and Los Angeles Sevens quarterfinal stage.

Since the beginning of the year, Kenya had not gone past the quarterfinal stage after poor results in Malaga, Seville, Singapore, Vancouver, Toulouse and London Sevens legs of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Shujaa has been reduced to whipping boys who are always bullied and thrashed by teams Kenya predominantly used to beat.

Kenya had collected only one point in the last three consecutive legs in Vancouver, Toulouse and London before a sixth place at the season ending Los Angeles Sevens saw them finish their 2021/2022 World Sevens Series campaign in 12th place with 49 points. That performance will have to get even better in South Africa this coming weekend if they are to stand a chance of replicating the nation's near perfect shows in 2009 and 2013.

Composed of five young debutants, McGrath has to find the right blend of youth and experience to propel Shujaa forward.

Johnstone Olindi, Vincent Onyala, Kevin Wekesa, Tony Omondi and Edmund Anya were named for their first appearance.

With the current Shujaa team still far off from the 2009, 2013 and 2016 sides, McGrath perhaps resorted back to factory settings by including proven try scoring machine and one time World Rugby Sevens Series all-time top try scorer Collins Injera into the team.

Since he last played for Kenya Sevens during the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games last year, Injera has missed out on the Shujaa team that went on to struggle.

Injera first played at the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2009 in Dubai where Kenya Sevens reached the semi-final for the first time after three attempts.

He is in fact the only surviving member of that 2009 squad.

Will the team achieve the feat of the late Benjamin Ayimba's team of 13 years ago? Time will tell.

With Ayimba in charge in 2009, Kenya would reach the Melrose Cup quarters as one of the best runners up.

Players such as Victor Oduor, Lavin Asego, Humphrey Kayange and Collins Injera had established themselves as Kenya became a tough nut to crack on the IRB Sevens Circuit, securing successive top ten finishes in the seasons since Ayimba's appointment.

They went into the 2009 World Cup in Dubai off a series of strong displays.

Kenya started with a 29-7 win over fellow Africans Tunisia, followed this up with a 43-7 win over Hong Kong before falling to England 26-7.

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