NAIROBI–Kenya—The big question and constant thoughts to many Kenyans is whether Shujaa, the Kenya national rugby sevens team will become the first Kenyan team to win at the Tokyo Olympics later this month.
Kenya has not had a good winning record in team sports, with neither Hockey in the 70s and 80s nor volleyball in 2004. Shujaa is debated to being the pool of death with bronze medalists from South Africa, the US, and the Dark Horses Ireland in pool C. According to Innocent Simiyu, their aim is to emerge at the top-six teams at the end of the competition.
“First things first, we need to get out of the pool. In Rio four years ago we finished 11th and now we need to come out of the pool and play in the quarters; from there we see where we end up,” he said.
Simiyu added that the Olympics tournament is wide-open, with teams not playing enough tournaments like the World Sevens Series because of the disruption due to the ongoing Covid pandemic.
“I think the competition is wide open; teams have had a rhythm to play as many tournaments as possible, so everyone starts on the same level,” he said.
Shujaa will open their game against the US, followed by South Africa, and will close out their preliminaries against Ireland. Simiyu reiterated that they must be keener for the US twin attacking threats.
“We need to close out space and match them physically. We have played twice this year in Madrid and we won both ties so we are quietly confident against them.” He noted.
Adding that South Africa is evenly bringing forth a tough challenge as they have beefed up a new dimension to their kicking and attack game.
“They have added variety to their game and it will be a tough match for us, we must mix our speed.” He said