Most Successful Season, Ever!
Baring a catastrophic melt down in London, the Kenya 7s will complete their most successful season ever at the world series. With one leg to go the Shujaa, as we now refer to them, are on 95 points, 4 points short of their best tally in a season.
The side only needs to reach a Bowl semi final to hit the 100 mark, in easy terms they need to win one game on day 2 at the London sevens. In the form we have been in this season, you can already start popping the champagne and arranging for that grand reception, this time in a KQ flight maybe?
What a season it has been though, ever since the fantastic four took over, we all knew there was something special coming. Plus at that point we couldn’t have possibly gotten any worse.
It all started at the Olympic qualifier, though we did secure qualification albeit in dramatic fashion, many still had doubts lingering over their minds, others had already sourced for international solutions.
These worries grew in Dubai, where we bowed out at the Bowl semi final, despite playing some of the best sevens rugby we had seen the team play in a while. By the time we headed out to Cape Town, there was a silent cloud of confidence, at least among the guys I know, if we could tighten the loose ends we saw in Dubai, we’d be back to pristine condition.
As we fought back from 7-0 to a 19-7 lead with less than 4 minutes to play against England, only to finish the game level at 19 all, that confidence took a significant punch, but we still hang in there. Our faith was immediately repaid as we went over the hosts and eventual tournament winners South Africa, 14-12.
We proceeded to the cup quarter finals where we met USA, I know some who would take a win against USA over a Bowl title anyday. We beat them 26-10, oh happy day, we were in the semi finals, in a tightly contested match we came up short 24-22 against Argentina.
We again suffered a 2 point loss, this time against France, in the Bronze final to finish 4th, the tide had turned. The boys came back home with one message, ‘Inakuja!’ (It doesn’t sound the same in English).
2016 was here and as quickly as it came, we were in Wellington then Sydney. Apart from the 22 points we gathered, courtesy of a Plate semi final and final, there was nothing much to write home about. There was that big bump off on Sony Bill Williams by Oscar Ouma which we celebrated like a cup win. Still we waited…itakuja.
Up next was Las Vegas and Vancouver, (yes, these boys do some serious travelling!) one of them would later become part of the ‘one win tours.’ In Vegas, our home away from home, we probably had the best indicator that indeed inakuja, when we blanked New Zealand 22-0, to top Pool A. We were in cloud 9, it was not that we had never beaten the all black sevens, we had never quite done it like this.
But we were soon back to ground zero, when we met the hosts, USA, in the cup quarter final, they beat us 26-14. It would go from bad to worse as we bowed out at the Plate semi final, courtesy of a 19-14 loss to Japan.
We however decided to remain fixated on that win over NZ, as we headed to Vancouver. At this point, after 4 consecutive appearances in the cup quarter finals, it now seemed like a foregone conclusion that we had to make it to the cup competition.
Vancouver started in the best of ways, with a sweeping 43-5 win over Portugal, the biggest win margin of Day 1, tied with Australia who also put a similar score line past Russia. That was however as good as it got, losses to Samoa and Fiji on day 1 saw us drop to the Bowl competition.
Further losses to France and Russia on day 2, saw us exit at the Shield semi final, our lowest finish of the season. The ‘inakuja’ calls were slowly fading away as the boys returned home with 11 points from 2 tournaments, half of what they came with last time.
It was soon time for Hong Kong, the second of three, three day tournaments in the series. See usually, sevens is played over 2 days, day 1 features the pool stages, on day 2 they play knock out rugby. In Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Paris the games are spread out over 3 days.
Remember how we won one game in Vancouver and found ourselves drowning in the Shield? Well before we get to that. Oscar Ouma and Billy Odhiambo had been ruled out of the trip to the far east due to injuries. These had been two of our most dependable players this season. To add to that, Biko Adema who had traveled to Hong Kong suffered an injury during training and was ruled out at as a result.
We kicked off Hong Kong with a 24-0 win over Samoa, before losing out narrowly to New Zealand and France, 5-0 and 17-10 respectively in Pool A. This time however, we had just done enough to sneak through to the cup quarter finals. Now remember Vancouver? Usually one win never gets you to the cup, but results in this pool went our way, this is the magic that is sevens rugby.
We were paired with Fiji in the cup quarter final, they were lucky to sneak away with a 12-10 win. A 33-0 thumping at the hands of England, knocked us out at the Plate semi final. Despite their contrasts, Vancouver and Hong Kong then became, the one win tours. Inakuja started to look more like, Itakuja kweli?
Then came Singapore, the very next weekend. With a ‘weakened’ squad, the odds heavily against us, belief, at least among the fans, quickly fading…IKAKUJA!
It did not look like it from the onset, especially after that 12 all draw against Scotland followed by a 14-0 loss to South Africa in Pool C. Could this be another addition to the ‘one win tour’ series? As was in HK, luck was on our side AND we made it to the cup quarter finals despite that one win. Then things changed…
I still maintain that something extra ordinary happened in the camp that night, mwanaume alikataa! We came out a different side from the one that left the turf after that SA game. And just like that, the journey that had begun in 1982, had finally come to fruition.
The side that had left the country with the odds heavily stacked against them, came back to a rousing heroes’ welcome from an adoring nation. All of a sudden everyone was a rugby fan, they had even played the sport at some point. It was a true joy to watch the country fall over itself just to get a piece of the 7s team…
Soon it was back to business, we were in Paris for the penultimate round of the 2015/16 World sevens series. Wins over Portugal and Russia saw us proceed to the cup competition, even before we played New Zealand in the last game of Pool A. We lost that one 19-17, it was agonisingly close.
Loses to France and Australia in the cup quarter final and Plate semi final respectively meant we picked 10 points from the love capital of the world. Which brings us to now…
Last leg of what is going to be our most successful season yet, and all I ask from the gentlemen who will run out at Twickenham in the Kenya red,white and green, is to enjoy themselves. Forget the headlines, the expectation from home, these days even the President tweets when you play. Forget him, us, the records, just go out and have fun. Itakuja tena!
Like you have done time and again this season, so brilliantly, express yourselves, freely. Let’s wrap up this season in style…
Match Schedule :
Kenya v Portugal – 11.52am
Kenya v Scotland – 2.58pm
Kenya v France – 6.04pm