Kenya returns to near full strength for Wellington and Vegas 7s

By francis marangu
Jan 27, 2022
  • Wellington-bound Kenya 7s team has five returning players for the next two legs of the World Rugby HSBC SWS. (Photo by Shutterspeed)

Six core team players returned to the Kenya Sevens rugby team which leaves for Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday for the fourth leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series next month.

Collins Injera, Lavin Asego, Billy Odhiambo, Tony Owuor, Michael Wanjala and Felix Ayange will feature for the first time this season. Head coach Felix Ochieng included the six in his 12-man travelling party named on Tuesday at the RFUEA ground.

Horace Otieno who turned professional in Sri Lanka and trained with the team did not make the cut.

While five had been caught up in the contractual wars with Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) and personal commitments, Ayange is returning from a shoulder injury he sustained during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.

He has returned to full fitness and already played two league matches for his club Kenya Harlequin FC against Catholic University and Strathmore University.

“For the series, you have to be fully fit and I have reached that level,” he told after being named for the next two legs. Ayange is happy to have made the cut despite heightened competition for selection.

“Its good to be back in the team considering many young players have since joined the fray. I have worked hard and it was training as usual for me during the festive season.”

Captain Andrew Amonde, Dan Sikuta, Tony Onyango, Oscar Ayodi, Bush Mwale and Patrice Agunda have been retained from the team that played in opening three legs.

Leonard Mugaisi, Oliver Mang’eni, Jacob Ojee and Michael Wanjala Junior are the non-travelling reserves.

Ochieng, who was at the KCB Sports Club on Saturday to monitor some of the players in Kenya Cup action, said the team is aware of the target in the next two legs.

“We have remained committed to our sessions since resuming training. The team wants every possible opportunity to succeed.” Amonde said: “Kenya has been in the Series before and the good thing we can do is take our performance a notch higher.”

Ouko expressed confidence

Addressing the players, KRU acting chairman Gabriel Ouko expressed confidence in the team that blends talent and experience. He said they were looking forward to a timely turnaround in performance.

“We have not performed well in the first three legs. There is still hope for a turnaround and the board will fully support you.”

Sponsors Kenya Airways was represented at the team naming by top officials led by CEO Mbuvi Ngunze. Their presence was critical to dispel any fears that they were contemplating deserting the team after poor performance.

Ngunze rallied his support saying nothing is lost yet. “This season, we have not had our game on. We are not among the top ten teams in the series at the moment but all is not lost,” he said.

“We are not yet midway the season and you can turn the tables. I encourage you to begin with the next two legs and it’s our expectations that Kenya will become the pride of Africa and whole world.”

At the same time, Ngunze touched on the state of affairs at KRU where a new CEO was officially introduced and several board members resigned.

“We hope the recent changes will be beneficial to the game. As KQ, we are expecting nothing but transparency and high levels of integrity.”

Full Squad: Andrew Amonde (Captain, KCB), Collins Injera (Mwamba), Lavin Asego (Mwamba), Daniel Sikuta (Mwamba), Billy Odhiambo (Strathmore), Tonny Owuor ( Strathmore), Michael Wanjala (Strathmore), Tony Onyango (Strathmore), Oscar Ayodi (Homeboyz), Bush Mwale (Homeboyz), Patrice Agunda (Kenya Harlequin), Felix Ayange (Kenya Harlequin); Management: Felix Ochieng (Head Coach), Vuyo Zangqa (Ass. Coach), Graham Bentz (Strength & Conditioning), Lameck Bogonko (Physio), Steve Sewe (Team Manager)