Lessons From The Cape and Dubai
The opening legs of the 2015/16 world sevens series, can only be described as a proper roller coaster for the Kenyan sevens fan. We went from baying for blood to heaping endless praise, all in seven days.
I will not dwell on the news, but just in case you are joining us from Rongai, the Kenya 7s kicked off their 2015/16 season in contrasting fashion. First bowing out at the Bowl semi final in Dubai before turning on the style in Cape Town to finish in 4th spot. We are now ranked 9th on the series log with 20 points, 15 behind leaders Fiji.
Now that we are all on the same page, here are a few lessons I picked up from the two legs :
We have become tactically better
Over the two legs, one thing stood out and was one of the most refreshing things to see. We seemed more intelligent in our play, we played situations not structure, this has always been the Kenyan way. Even when we were losing in Dubai, there was always a glimpse of hope.
We have brushed up on the technical aspects of the game, our kick off retention rate was very impressive, our breakdown play measured and disciplined, our set plays, accurate, all this based on how neatly we kept possession.
I’d point to the match against USA and the first half against England as the perfect examples of our growing stature technically and tactically.
This man Willy Ambaka was our star here, plucking balls from the air and on ground. He might not have been as explosive as we remember him, but some of those restarts he claimed are more crucial than half a dozen hand offs.
For his efforts he was part of the Capetown 7s dream team. Oscar Ouma should also get a mention here, his presence at the ruck was immense.
This man Papa Locole
While we are still singling out players, I have two in mind who deserve a real shout. The first, was by far the most influential player over the last two weekends.
In the absence of Andrew Amonde, Collins was in line to take up the captaincy and take it up he did. He led from the front and you could spot him talking to the younger faces in the squad, in a very re assuring tone. He was in the list of the top 5 overall performers both in Dubai and Capetown.
In Cape Town specifically he was in a class of his own, playing at sweeper he dictated play with the mastery of a seasoned maestro. For a player who has been used in almost all positions in the last couple of seasons, he finally seemed settle here.
He thrived in this role and looked like the Injera we all know. His inclusion in the Capetown 7s dream team a well deserved nod. Many have been suggesting that it was about time we let go of the old guard. With such performances, I don’t see how that will happen.
Oyoo is the real deal
From the first time he touched the ball in Dubai against England, you could tell that there was something special about this kid, Nelson Oyoo.
He was devastating for Nakuru in the local circuit and from what we have seen in the last two weekends, he can also be for Kenya at the international stage. His burst of pace can be a real asset for us, he still needs a bit of work, to become the finished product we all see in him. In the meantime he has more than made his mark in the side.
Another debutant that left a mark was Robert Aringo. For his size, Majei is quite the solid runner, he was devastating with ball in hand. His intelligent running was a handful for the opposition every time he came on.
For the first time in a while the ‘wabunge’ (players starting from the bench) offered a real extra dimension to our play. The likes of Mugaisi, Eden, Wanyama, Oluoch, Oyoo and Aringo made a real impact whenever they came on.
We are far from a complete product.
In Dubai especially, we were reminded on more than one occasion, that you can not afford a lapse in concentration. We were caught out far too many times in situations that we should have handled better. I am sure the technical bench has noted these already.
Our biggest misdoing had to be in defence, where it looked like we either did not communicate clearly or at times hadn’t nailed the system properly. I should also mention our conversion rate, but some of these things are more about luck than anything else.
I still think Biko is our best kicking option this far and as much as he has missed some crucial kicks, he has also saved us loads of times with the same boot.
Somebody somewhere called it game IQ/intelligence/awareness, what this basically means is knowing what to do at what time. We missed this on one or two instances, this should however be no major cause of concern as it is expected, especially with the debutantes, some things take time and need to be learned the hard way.
One other thing I observed is our inability to kill off a game, we set a trend of starting strongly in the first half then fading away in the second. What we attribute this to is anyone’s guess, except for the technical bench who as I mentioned must have seen this better than we did.
All we need now is consistency.
After we have tweaked the small areas, brushed up on everything else, there will be one more thing to complete our turn around, consistency.
Just to be clear, by this I mean consistently putting in top performances and wins, not the opposite. If for nothing else then to regulate our heart rates when the side plays. I don’t think watching more Dubai-Capetown like weekends is good for anyone’s health.
It is an issue we have struggled with for quite sometime now, even when we were beating everyone in 2013, we still were unable to do it consistently. In my amateur book, we can achieve consistency in two steps.
First, widen the pool of players who can play at this level. As a semi-pro side we are bound to miss out on players more often than not, to cover this we need a larger pool of quality players to cover any absentees. So far I feel we are heading in the right direction on this.
Two, solidify the playing structures/patterns, that everyone knows what to do where and when. This way, whoever comes on knows exactly what is expected of them and how to achieve this.
Overall, I think we have the right people to take this Kenya 7s side to new heights, in the four musketeers (go with me on this one) we have gentlemen who understand the Kenyan system and know how to get the best out of it.
I have not enjoyed watching the Kenya 7s play like I did over the weekend, in a very long while. Could we have more of this please.