Shujaa chase win against Tonga as rugby World Cup action starts today in South Africa from 11:23am Kenyan time

Kenya rugby sevens Levy Amunga (R) is challenged Tony Onyango during a training session on July 26, 2022 at the Broadstreet Rugby Football Club pitcch in Coventry, United Kingdom ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games between Thursday, 28 Jul 2022 - Mon, 8 Aug 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Kelly Ayodi, Standard)

Kenya Sevens team will be hoping to replicate their semi-finals feat in 2013 when they kick-off the 2022 Rugby World Cup Sevens campaign with a pre-round of 16 match against Tonga today in South Africa from 11:23am Kenyan time.

Shujaa finished fourth during the 2013 finals played in Moscow, Russia after losing to Olympic champions Fiji in the bronze match finals, a level many local fans will hope Kenya reaches again if not surpass.

English tactician Damian McGrath will also bank on the two surviving members of the 2013 team Collins Injera and Willy Ambaka to inspire Shujaa to glory having the experience of playing and defeating some of the best teams back then.

The former Germany Sevens coach recalled World Rugby Sevens Series second all-time top try scorer Injera to the team after more than a year out with a target to rejuvenate the team.

Injera, a proven try scoring machine is in line to make his fourth appearance at the World Cup.

Currently, the Mwamba Club player is second in the all-time top scorer list in the HSBC World Sevens Series with 279 tries behind England's Dan Norton, who has 358 tries.

Speaking ahead of the games, McGrath said they have to win against Tonga to set a launchpad towards their goal of achieving a podium finish.

"Tonga are a powerful team with tremendous speed, physic and agility. We can't afford mistakes in South Africa and we have to go for the kill knowing very well if we lose we are out," said McGrath.

"We know they are very physical, lots of flares and it's a sticky one. You could slip very easily against Tonga so we need to be focused right from start. That then leads to Argentina which is a tough draw.

"We are confident we can play. We won't be thinking it is Argentina but we are going there thinking what can beat them," the coach said.

On Injera, McGrath said he wanted the experience of the global star to nurture and guide the five debutants. Johnstone Olindi, Vincent Onyala, Kevin Wekesa, Tony Omondi and Edmund Anya are named for their first appearance at the quadrennial event.

"First of all, Injera has the experience and leadership. He can play across several positions. He's been training with the team the last month or so and he's performing very well.

"It could be said it is a gamble to bring him back but I feel what he brings to the team on and off the field is important to this format. It's a straight knockout, it's do or die so we can't afford to slip up," he said.

The 24-team men's competition also begins on day one with a qualification round involving teams seeded from nine to 24.

The winners of the qualification round will progress to the round of 16 where they will take on the top eight seeded teams, while the losers will go into the Bowl competition which will decide positions 17 to 24.

With the games set to be played on a knockout format, Injera said they have to take one-match-at-a-time approach.

"This is a knockout tournament, you lose one game you are out of the competition, for us we just have to take it a game at a time and that is what we have been talking about, the first game is Tonga and that is where all our energies are focused on," said Injera.

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.

Kenya had a good outing in LA last week finishing sixth as Australia won their first ever World Sevens Series title while New Zealand won the cup.

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