After enduring a difficult visit to Wellington during the New Zealand sevens Kenya bounced back in some style in San Diego California chalking up a first ever win against Canada and yet another upset over former series championa England in the Main Vup Quarterfinals to get to only their second ever Main Cup semi finals ever. They now sit in 5th place in the overall rankings and have now overhauled their highests ever season points tally with Full details available here as well as national coach Ben Ayimba’s reaction
Kenya were last week served with a dose of reality after their world conquering feats of the first two legs of the IRB when finished as losing finalists in the bottom tier shield competition in the New Zealand leg. They therefore remain on 12 points in the overall standing and slip to 8th place from 5th ahead of their next assignment in USA where they open in a less difficult Pool C where their opponents will be Argentina, Canada and Chile.
2008 looks to e a ig year for Kenyan sportsmen and women all over the world and although our beloved Harambee Stars will be missing out on the premier event on the African Continent, The Africa Cup of Nations, there action on the domestic season will hopefully give the die hard fans who still attend these matches reason enough that there is enough talent on the local scene to change that. The rugby and cricket teams on the other hand will have quite a bit on their own plates with both looking for success which for, while for rugby will be unprecedented, will have been long overdue for the cricket team.
First up will be Th Intercontinental cup in cricket which see the best Non-test teams face each other in a league from whence the best two teams face of in a final in a neutral venue to decide which one of them is the best at First Class cricket. The current tournament which started way back in June currently has Kenya on top of the table before there two matches in January against UAE and Namibia, Kenya will need to cash in on these winnable matches before they head of to face more adept opposition in the form Of the Dutch and the Scots. Outside of that if things work out well Kenya will also face Test nations South Africa in two One day matches, and the possibility of hosting Zimbabwe for a full blown tour including a number of First Class matches and One Day internationals. Also in th pipeline is a possible forur nation tournament involving immediate rivals in the Cricket world rankings Ireland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Rugby returns in a big way in February when the Rugby sevens tournament returns in early February and with Kenya having made such a strong statement in the first two legs in Dubai and George making the main up quarter finals on both occasions and winning the plate in George knocking over such traditional rugby powerhouses such as England on the way, the rugby team will be looking to build on this platform and finishing well in the top ten, maybe even the top five, who knows ? Sky is the limit.
However the biggest event on the 2008 Kenyan sports calendar is undoubtedly the Olympics in Beijing where Kenya’s athletics will be wanting to extend their revival at the recent World Athletics World Championships in Osaka with another huge medal haul. Also looking to get in amongst the medal winners will be the boxers and maybe if things go really positively there might be one or two Kenyan swimmers lining up at the finals of one or two strokes.
On the Domestic front there will be the KFF Premier league which is looking to run uninterrupted for the second successive season in a few years and will be available to view all over the continent on Supersprt following a multimillion shilling 4 year television deal. Also on the agenda will be the usual rugby sevens circuit peaking in mid year with the Safari Sevens and if nothing goes worong for the first time Kenya will be witnessing the best cricketing talent on offer playing each other in a proposed national league.
Kenya got their Sevens challenge to a decidedly more positive start this year at Dubai reaching the Main cup quarter-finals of this year’s tournament and ending up in the plate semifinals just one year after losing all three of their pool matches in last year’s event at Dubai, given that the resiliences Kenya showed in pulling off a come from behind victory against Wales and even in coming close to repeating the antics against top teams Samoa in the group stages , South Africa in the main Cup Quarter-finals, and Argentina in the Plate Semifinals certainly bodes well for the team’s morale and grit ahead of the George Sevens tournament next week where they have been put in what must certainly is the tournaments group of death.
Having come within minutes if not seconds of holding group favourites Samoa to a draw in their opening match of the tournament after rallying from 19-9 down at one stage, Kenya up a notch in the second game and making sure this time against Wales to finish the comeback with a win when they completed a comeback this time from 12-0 down to wrap up a 14-12 win before booking a place in the main cup quarter-final with a 12-7 win over USA, and although they would eventually come unstuck unable to quite pull off comebacks aagainst South Africa in the Quarter-finals of the Main Cup or Argentina in the Semis of the Plate it was all in all better than what Kenya have produced at recent Dubai tournaments and in getting a few points on the chart where they have been rather hard to come by will be of additional satisfaction to the team as they llok to finish higher in the championship than ever before.
Kenya continued their positive start in the IRB Rugby Sevens World series with another strong showing at George. Having come of the back of a surprise quarter-final appearance in Dubai the boys went and repeated the same coming out of what was a decidedly much more difficult group containing multiple championship winners New Zealand and regular cup contenders, England, by upsetting England 17-7 seeing off Zimbabwe…. and narrowly losing out 19-0 to the All Blacks to edge into the Main Cup Quarter-finals in second place in the group. However where in Durban Kenya returned trophy-less here Kenya were able to hold their nerve first against Scotland, then against USA to win the plate winning the games 17-15 and 15-14 respectively.
This massive performance now puts Kenya in tied 5th place in the overall championship as it breaks for the winter and come march when the next even t is due it is hoped the boys can build on their efforts and put together some more solid performances and finish higher up the ladder than ever before.
After a thrilling World Cup that will surely go down as one of the greatest ever for those of you who support South Africa, England, Argentina, Fiji or just plain love a good upset the attention switches to the new 2007-8 Rugby Sevens season where shock upsets almost certainly as usual will be a way of life.
Having acquired the status of one of a core team last season saw Kenya’s 7s teams reach their finish once again in the top ten with the climax being the quarter-final victory over England in Australia that saw them qualify for their first ever main cup semifinals. However if they are to repeat theri heroics of last year and make more progress in this version of the game thay will have their work cut out for them as the first two tournaments in Dubai and George? see them placed in very competitive groups In Dubai, Kenya face tough South Sea islanders Samoa, Wales, and a potentially very dangerous opponent in the USA in Pool C, but it is in the second event in George where the Africans will surely find the going tough as they face defending World Champions New Zealand, England and Zimbabwe.
With the season opening Dubai event kicking off in late November and the George round later on in December Kenya’s management team have selected a squad that is brimming with the experience of the Simiyu brothers,as well as a host of new talent in Mean Machine forward Wilson K’Opondo, Cyprian Shimenga (Nakuru RFC), George Mbaye (Mwamba) and Samuel Wefwafwa (Impala) as well as Blak Blad wing Lawrence Tesot. Hopefully if they get to show their stuff on the global stage they will be able to make the step up to international sevens rugby and give a few of the regular startrs a run for their money