All Set For 20th Safari 7s
After weeks of speculation, uncertainty and what has been a muted build up, it is finally, time for the biggest event on the region’s rugby calendar, Africa’s premier Sevens tournament, the Safari 7s.
Despite the cloud of doubt that hang over this year’s edition, with the struggle to pin down sponsors, the organisers have managed to put together an exciting list of teams to do battle for the Robin Cahill trophy, in a very short time.
The 14 visiting teams are led by world rugby sevens core side Portugal alongside the likes of Spain, 2013 runners up Australia Iconz, Italy, the English Saxtons and invitational side Samurai 7s among others. The African delegation sees fellow Olympic hopefuls Zimbabwe, Namibia and Uganda set to use the 2 day tournament to sharpen their sides for the upcoming qualifiers.
The hosts will be represented by 2 sides, the Shujaa and the Morans, this will be the first opportunity for us to see the ‘new’ Kenya 7s in action. After being in camp for the last couple of weeks under the tutelage of Benjamin Ayimba and Paul Murunga.
The two sides bring with them some great young talent with several seasoned campaigners sitting this one out due to injury. This will be a great platform for the new faces to stake their claim in the side that will play in the Olympic qualifier and the sevens series.
This is how the 16 teams have been pooled :
Hosts and last year’s Plate winners Shujaa headline Pool A, where they are joined by last year’s losing semi finalists Western Province and Safari 7s debutants Burundi and Italy.
The Shujaa will be under Benjamin Ayimba and look like the stronger of the two Kenyan sides, with the likes of Andrew Amonde, Willy Ambaka, Biko Adema, Oscar Dennis, Augustine Lughonzo and Kennedy Moseti in the squad. Watch out for the young trio of Brian Tanga, Jeffrey Oluoch and Nelson Oyoo who impressed in the local circuit.
The Shujaa should easily navigate through this pool into the cup quarter finals with the Western Province set to be their biggest competition here. Italy could be the surprise package here with Burundi, a late inclusion in the tournament happy to just be here.
The England Saxons return to the Safari 7s after missing out last year, the side headlines Pool B where they’ll battle it out against Spain, who bowed out at the Bowl semis last year, Olympic hosts Brazil and Zambia.
Another straight forward looking pool, the Saxons should make an easy meal out of the three sides, with either Spain or Brazil joining them in the cup draw at the close of day one.
After bowing out at the cup semi finals last year, the Samurai international 7s are back with a bit of Kenyan flavour looking to go all the way this time. They are joined in this Pool by Zimbabwe, the Kenya Morans and Uganda.
Former Kenya 7s coach Mike Friday will be handling the Samurai over the weekend, a side that features a few familiar faces in Oscar Ouma, Felix Ayange and Samuel Oliech. Alongside Ignacio Martin of Spain. They are among the pre-tournament favourites but will have to first navigate this tricky looking pool, before setting sights on the Robin Cahill.
Zimbabwe who will be one of Kenya’s biggest competitors for that Olympic ticket later in the year, have named a strong squad as they make their return to the Safari sevens. Fresh from a cup final loss to South Africa in Namibia the Cheetahs will be no push over.
The young Morans side couldn’t have hoped for a tougher pool, Paul Murunga’s charges will need to be at their very best if they are to make it to the cup quarter finals. The likes of Eden Agero, Robert Aringo, Bush Mwale and Tony Onyango will be tasked with leading this young side against their more fancied opponents.
Neighbours Uganda round up what looks like the Pool of death at the weekend. The cranes who also harbour hopes of grabbing that Olympic ticket will look to make a statement here heading into the qualifier. They have also left little to chance, naming a formidable side led by Michael Wokorach for the weekend.
After narrowly losing out in the cup final in 2013, the Australian Iconz make a return to the Safari Sevens where they find themselves in Pool D alongside Portugal, Namibia and the Newcastle Warriors.
Another potentially tricky pool with the Iconz, Portugal and the Newcastle Warriors looking like potential cup qualifiers. Namibia will probably hang on to an outside chance in this pool but should not be taken lightly.
It promises to be a fantastic two days of sevens rugby and all the festivities that come with it. Will Mike Friday finally win a Safari Sevens title, or will Benja add to his tally of Robin Cahills? Maybe we’ll have a surprise package blowing away the field.
Will the Morans pull a ‘Simba Saba’ this year, more importantly will you finally land a score at the Safari 7s?
Only one way to find out, tukutane Kasarani!