Is Kenya Sevens ready to return to World Rugby Sevens Series?

Kenya Shujaa's Captain Vincent Onyala fight it out with Samurai Baraccudas players during the 2023 Safari 7s tournament at RFUEA ground on Sunday, Nov 19, 2023. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

In May, a dark cloud hang over Kenya Sevens after Shujaa were relegated from the prestigious World Rugby Sevens Series.

Stakeholders, former players, former coaches and Kenyans at large ranted at the Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) for their part in the fall of Shujaa, the pride of Kenya.

Six months down the line, a new ray of hope is up in the air as a new look national rugby Sevens team leads Kenyan rugby enthusiasts into a journey of redemption and reliving off long forgotten memories.

From a new leadership at KRU, new coach at Kenya Sevens and a new captain, Shujaa is truly moving into the right direction of gaining their promotion back to the World Rugby Sevens Series next year.

Sasha Mutai, the KRU boss, head coach Kevin ‘Bling’ Wambua, and Vincent Onyala, the new Shujaa captain are turning out to be the magic Kenya needed.

‘Shujaa’, a Swahili word meaning courage, confidence, bravery, or heroism, is slowly creeping back into the minds of Kenyans if the recent results are anything to go by.

On Sunday, Daystar University student Patrick Odongo once again gave Kenyans a reason to smile while supporting the national team after he led Shujaa in winning the 2023 Safari Sevens title.

Odongo, who also inspired Kenya Sevens to a 17-12 win over South Africa, was the man of the moment at RFUEA Grounds after touching down two tries and leading Kenya to a 19-0 win over Samurai in the final match.

Winning the Safari Sevens unbeaten assured Kenyans that perhaps Shujaa are on the right track to redemption.

In Zimbabwe, Kenya won the African title to not only qualify for the Paris Olympic Games, but also earn a spot in the 2024 World Rugby Challenger Series.

This series will serve as a qualification pathway for earning promotion back to the coveted World Rugby Sevens Series for the 2024-2025 season.

Speaking after the Safari Sevens glory on Sunday, former Kenya Sevens great Andrew Amonde said he believes Shujaa are on the right track to redemption.

Amonde, who helped Kenya win the historic 2016 Singapore Sevens, said through the right structures, Shujaa will rise again as they prepare for not only the Paris Olympics, but also the World Rugby Challenger Series.

“Many of our strategies unfolded as anticipated, with the team effectively implementing our planned actions. Their accomplishments reflect the significant effort we’ve invested. Moving forward, we will continue to motivate and guide them towards reaching new heights,” said Amonde.
The primary objective of this tournament is to provide our players with extensive exposure. Their commendable performance is an integral part of the learning curve. For Kenya, this competition serves as a valuable benchmarking tool, helping us assess our current standing and future trajectory.”

Shujaa’s next assignment will be at the Dubai Sevens Invitational tournament on December 1-2.

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