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Kenya's journey in Rugby Sevens World Cup
By Eric Njiru | Thu 12 Jul, 2018 19:13

With a few days to go until Kenya Sevens takes on Tonga in the Rugby World Cup Sevens at AT&T Park in San Francisco, we take a look back at the four previous editions of the tournament they have featured in.

The team missed out on the first two editions in 1993 and 1997 but qualified for the Rugby World Cup Sevens for the first time in 2001 and have gone on to qualify for subsequent editions in 2005, 2009 and 2013. They are now in for the fifth straight edition to be played from 20-22 July in the US. 

As they become regulars, the team's results have also been on the up rising from the Bowl semis in the first two editions to hit the semis of the main cup in 2009 and 2013. 

Felix 'Totti' Ochieng is the only person to have been in all World Cup tournaments from 2001 to 2013; as a player and as an assistant coach. 

1993 - First Rugby World Cup Sevens

The 1993 Rugby World Cup Sevens was the inaugural Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament. It was held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, in April 1993.

Kenya did not qualify for it after finishing last in its six-team group that had Taiwan, Spain, Tunisia, Germany and Malaysia without a single win in games played in Catania, Sicily, in May 1992. Kenya scored 28 points and conceded 112 before moving on to the consolation second round of qualifiers dubbed the Etna Cup where they lost to Tunisia in the semis in what was considered classification games. 

Taiwan, Namibia, Spain and Hong Kong were the successful qualifiers after three group stages and three knockout rounds. 24 nations were drawn into four pools of six teams with the top two progressing to the Melrose Cup, the third to the Plate and the fourth-placed teams contesting the Bowl competition.

England defeated Australia 21–17 to become the first team to win the Melrose Cup.

1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Hong Kong

The 1997 Rugby World Cup Sevens was the second edition of the Rugby World Cup Sevens tournament and the first to be held in Hong Kong. 

Kenya did not qualify for this one too after finishing third and last in pool C that had Tonga and Denmark in qualifiers held in Dubai. Kenya scored 12 points and conceded 62. In the second set of qualifiers Kenya also propped its pool after two loses to Wales and the Czech Republic.

It is at this stage that Morocco and Zimbabwe qualified for their first World Cup alongside Cook Islands and Portugal. The four were among the 21 nations that went through qualifiers to join 1993 champions England, runners-up Australia and hosts Hong Kong.

Fiji defeated South Africa 24–21 to take the title for the first time. 

2001: Kenya and three other teams make debut in Argentina. 

In January 2001, the Argentine beach resort of Mar del Plata hosted the third Rugby World Cup Sevens and among the host of returning nations, were four debutants in Kenya, Chile, Russia and Georgia. Kenya had qualified as second placed team in Africa after qualifying for the final of Africa 7s held in Nairobi. They lost 26-14 in the final to a Victor Olonga inspired Zimbabwe.

Bill Githinji was the man to lead Kenya at a first World Cup as coach as Benjamin Ayimba was picked as captain in place of Sammy Kakhame who was left out of the squad. 

24 teams were divided into four pools of six teams each - Kenya competing in Pool A alongside Fiji, Argentina, South Korea, Russia and Ireland. Kenya lost all five pool matches scoring only 48 points and conceding 166 on the way to picking five pool points. 

The team lost 33-17 to South Korea and 31-10 to Ireland on day one then 14-7 to Russia, 52-7 to Fiji and 36-7 to Argentina on day two. Coached by Bill Githinji Kenya went ahead to beat fancied France 12-7 in Bowl quarters for their first win ever at the World Cup but would lose 35-12 to Chile in Bowl semis. 

A new champion was guaranteed and New Zealand made sure it was them who added their name to the honors board with a 31-12 victory over Australia, Jonah Lomu scoring a hat-trick in a man-of-the-match display. 

Kenya 7s 2001 World Cup squad:  

1. Benjamin Ayimba - Captain (Impala), 2. Felix Ochieng (Kenya Harlequins), 3. Oscar Osir, 4. Anthony Ongoro (Impala), 5. Kennedy Aswani (Nondies), 6. Mitchell Ocholla (Impala), 7. Paul Murunga, 8. Kanyi Gitonga, 9. Alan Hicks (Nondies), 10. Alan Wamanga (Impala).

Team officials: Stuart Urquhart (team manager), Bill Githinji (coach) and David Bukusi (doctor)

2005: Kenya back, World Cup returns to Hong Kong

Kenya returned for a second straight World Cup in 2005 after beating Namibia 33-14 in Africa 7s to secure their spot in Hong Kong which became the first country to host two Rugby World Cup Sevens and Fiji the first to win the competition twice after dethroning New Zealand with a 29-19 win in front of another sell-out crowd. 

Bill Githinji was back as coach for a second World Cup stint and he came with a strong side captained by Oscar Osir who was one of three survivors from the 2001 World cup squad besides Benjamin Ayimba and Felix Ochieng. 

In his squad were speedster Allan Makaka, promising youngsters Sydney Ashioya and Peter Ochola as well as Victor Sudi,  Lucas Onyango and Newton Ongalo. 

Despite lack of serious preparations in the run-up to Hong Kong, the 2005 World Cup was a bit better for the Kenyan side compared to 2001 as they picked their first ever group stage win - as a matter of fact two.

Playing in pool D alongside South Africa, Argentina, Tunisia, Russia and Uruguay, Kenya finished in position 5 out of 6 with 9 points to drop to Bowl quarterfinal. 

The team started with a historic 17-14 win over Uruguay in game one then lost game two 26-19 to Russia and 36-5 loss to Argentina in game three. A 36-10 loss to South Africa in day two followed before they ended it on a high with a 22-12 win over Tunisia. 

A 26-10 win over Hong Kong in Bowl quarters on day three got the team to the Bowl semis where they exited the competition with a 28-15 loss to Italy

Kenya 7s 2005 World Cup squad: 

1. Felix Ochieng 2. Peter Claver Abuoga 3. Edwin Shimenga 4. Victor Sudi Simiyu 5. Leslie Mango 6. Allan Makaka 7. Oscar Osir Osula (Captain) 8.Benjamin Ayimba 9. Sidney Ashioya 10. Lucas Onyango 11. Newton Ongalo 12. Peter Ocholla

Coach - Bill Gitihinji

2009: Kenya tear apart Fiji in Dubai

Seven months before International Olympic Committee members voted in favor of welcoming rugby sevens onto the Olympic programme, Dubai hosted the fifth edition of RWC Sevens but, crucially, the first to feature both a men’s and a women’s competition.

The form book was well and truly ripped up in the men’s event as, most brutally of all, defending champions Fiji were taken apart by Kenya, Wales beat 2001 champions New Zealand 15-14, England fell to Samoa in an extra-time thriller and South Africa came unstuck against Argentina.

After joining Tunisia and Zimbabwe as regional qualifiers, Kenya had never reached the Cup or Plate stages before, but shared 3rd place in 2009. 

Benjamin Ayimba who who featured in the 2001 and 2005 World Cup as a player was now the coach. He named 11 debutants with Sidney Ashioya being the only survivor from the 2005 World Cup. Humphrey Kayange, Allan Onyango, Victor Oduor, Bennedict Nyambu, Wilson K'Opondo, Lavin Asego, Biko Adema, Innocent Simiyu, Collins Injera, Gibson Weru and Horace Otieno were all introduced. 

Pool teams were reduced from six to four but pools increased from four to six. Kenya 7s took on England, Tunisia and Hong Kong in pool E going ahead to finish second with seven points, two behind England. The results were 29-7 win over Tunisia, 43-7 win over Hong Kong and 26-7 defeat to England saw Kenya reach cup quarters. 

They met defending champions Fiji in cup quarters on 7th March 2009 and tore them apart, winning 26-7 with tries from Lavin Asego, Biko Adema, Humphrey Kayange and Collins Injera to dethrone the champions while beating them for the first time ever to make a first cup semifinal appearance. Kenya would however lose 12-0 to Argentina in semis. 

The final was on a knife-edge at 12-12 with a minute to go until Aled Thomas raced away to score the decisive try and Wales, the 80-1 outsiders, were champions seeing off Argentina 19-12. 

Kenya squad at 2009 World Cup: 

1. Humphrey Kayange  (Captain) 2. Allan Onyango 3. Victor Oduor 4. Ben Nyambu 5. Wilson K'Opondo 6. Lavin Asego 7. Biko Adema 8. Innocent Simiyu 9. Collins Injera 10. Sidney Ashioya 11. Gibson Weru 12. Horace Otieno

Coach- Benjamin Ayimba

2013: Kenya see off France in extra time

This time round Kenya had qualified automatically and did not to go through Africa 7s for a place in Moscow 2013. Zimbabwe and Tunisia took Africa's two slots. Englishman Mike Friday took charge of the squad to Moscow. 

Humphrey Kayange, Horace Otieno, Collins Injera, Biko Adema and Lavin Asego all returned for yet another World Cup as Willy Ambaka, Oscar Ouma, Patrice Agunda, Felix Ayange, Eden Agero, Andrew Amonde as captain and Michael Wanjala made their World Cup debuts. 

Kenya was pooled alongside Samoa, Zimbabwe and Philippines. For the first time, they bagged all three wins beating Philippines 45-5, Zimbabwe 31-5 and Samoa 12-17. France went down to Kenya 24-19 after extra time in the quarters to book England in the semis. 

The conditions under foot were no better when England overcame Kenya 12-5 under extremely wet conditions. Shujaa would lose 29-5 to Fiji in third place playoff on 30th June 2013. England simply had no answer to an inspired New Zealand who won the final 33-0.

Kenya squad at 2013 World Cup:

1. Horace Otieno 2. Oscar Ouma 3. Patrice Agunda 4. Felix Ayange 5. Eden Agero 6. Humphrey Kayange 7. Biko Adema 8. Andrew Amonde (Captain) 9. Michael Wanjala 10. Lavin Asego 11. Collins Injera 12. Willy Ambaka

Coach- Mike Friday

2018: Kenya ready to roar

Only four players have been named for a second straight World Cup appearance following up on the 2013 edition in Moscow; Andrew Amonde, Collins Injera, Eden Agero and Willy Ambaka. They were all part of coach Mike Friday's squad that made it to the semis in Russia matching results from the squad that attended the 2009 World Cup in Dubai. 

In being named for the 2018 trip, Injera will become the first Kenyan player to feature in three straight World Cups after 2009 and 2013. 

Dennis Ombachi of Nondies and Sammy Oliech of Impala Saracens return to the squad after missing London and Paris 7s. Ombachi, who was devastated after missing out on the 2013 squad, finally gets his chance as he made the cut. 

Oscar Ayodi who missed out on the 2013 World Cup squad despite being one of the 16 players that trained in England is in for the San Francisco trip as captain. 

The innovative tournament format will see an initial knock-out qualifier featuring the nations ranked ninth to 24th, while the top eight seeds progress automatically to the round of 16. 

Kenya will play Tonga in the knock-out qualifier on Friday at 11.01pm Kenyan time with the winner set to take on Scotland in the round of 16. 

Kenya Sevens Squad to 2018 World Cup

1.Oscar Ayodi (Captain) 2.Collins Injera 3.Andrew Amonde 4.Willy Ambaka 5.Samuel Oliech 6.Nelson Oyoo 7.Dennis Ombachi 8.Jeff Oluoch 9.Brian Tanga 10.Eden Agero 11.Herman Humwa 12.Samuel Ngethe

Management

1.Innocent Simiyu - Coach 2. Geoffrey Kimani -S & C 3. Lameck Bogonko - Physio 4.Eric Ogweno -Team manager. 

Kenya Sevens World Cup 

Argentina 2001- Bowl semis, lost 35-12 to Chile
Hong Kong 2005- Bowl semis, lost 28-15 to Italy
Dubai 2009-  Cup semis, lost 12-0 to Argentina
Moscow 2013- Third place, lost 29-5 to Fiji
San Francisco 2018- 

* Article expanded from the original one to capture 1993 & 1997 World Cups

Eric Njiru
ericnjiru41@gmail.com 0726205521
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