Commonwealth success, World Rugby core status top Lionesses 2018 ambitions

By sportsnewsarena correspondent
Nov 02, 2017
  • Janet Okello was the third recipient of the monthly award after Simon Cherono and Hellen Obiri. (Photo by Alex Wafula)

  • Kenya Lionesses target a World Rugby Womens' Sevens Series core status next year as well as performing well in the Commonwealth Games. (Photo by Alex Wafula)

  • Janet Okello beat competition from teammate Sinaida Aura, who was the top try scorer at the African Cup, Joyceline Jepkosgei and Eliud Kipchoge (Photo by Alex Wafula).

Kevin Wambua, the Kenya Lionesses head coach targets a World Rugby Women's Sevens Series core status next year as well as performing well at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia next year reports Alex Wafula.

Kenya will play in a World Series qualification tournament in Hong Kong in April, just before the Commonwealth Games.

Kenya Lionesses kick off their season in December at the Dubai Sevens invitational tournament, one Wambua hopes will spring them positively into next year’s crucial fixtures.

“Last year we reached the semi-finals and this year the target is to obviously go one better, get into the final and we have talked as a team and decided if we get to the final we can give it a go and try to see whether we can win it,” Wambua said.

He added; “On the long term goals we have to work and see the team getting World Rugby core status because we really need to play the series and after that, we want to do well in the Commonwealth Games.”

His sentiments were shared by skipper Philadelphia Olando who reiterated that the women’s team would want to play on the same wavelength like their male counterparts.

“This team has come from so far and now we need to go one step ahead and play the series. It is about time,” Olando noted.

Kenya Lionesses qualified for the Commonwealth Games after finishing second to South Africa in the African Cup played in September in Tunisia.

They lost 17-12 to South Africa who picked the ticket to represent Africa in next year’s Rugby Sevens World Cup.

Utility player Janet ‘Shebesh’ Okello was named Most Valuable Player (MVP). She was the second top try scorer with seven tries and provided a couple of assists.

Her performance in the tournament earned her the StarTimes/Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) Sports Personality of the Month Award for September.

Beat strong nominees

She beat competition from teammate Sinaida Aura who was the top try scorer at the African Cup, Joyceline Jepkosgei who broke the world 10km record at the Birell Prague Grand Prix and Berlin Marathon winner Eliud Kipchoge.

The 25-year old walked away with a trophy, 42-inch StarTimes digital television set and Sh100,000 in cash reward.

Said Okello, the third recipient of the monthly award after Simon Cherono and Hellen Obiri: “I am really pleased to get this award. I did not expect it and it is a pleasant surprise which will motivate me to work hard. I can’t describe how happy I am and from here, I am going to put in an extra shift in the upcoming tournaments.”

Coach Wambua praised the player who made her debut for the national team in 2013, saying she deserved the crowning moment.

“I said this even before we left for Tunisia that Janet is one of the best in the World and looking at her background and how far she has come, she truly deserves this. It is a motivation to her and the team because they will now work harder, knowing people are watching and waiting to reward them,” Wambua noted.

Okello also bears the same targets as her coach and teammates; making it to be a core World Rugby side and doing well in the Commonwealth Games.

“We learnt so much from the Rio Olympics last year that we should not fear any team. We might be going to the Commonwealth Games as underdogs but we now believe in ourselves and we can tackle anyone. The target is to finish in the top five,” the Northern Suburbs star added.

The team is currently in non-residential training ahead of the Dubai tournament.