Murunga Brings Out The Big Shujaa Guns, Owino In Lionesses Comeback

Mar 28 - by Mutwiri Mutuota for SportPesa News

Former skipper Andrew Amonde among seven changes in struggling national rugby sevens men's team, women's side retains much of the squad that played at Dubai 7s

Kenya's Charles Omondi charges through the Australia defense on day two of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver on 10 March, 2019. PHOTO/Mike Lee/KLC fotos for World Rugby

  • Murunga ran in seven changes from the team that toured Las Vegas and Vancouver where Kenya scored six points to remain 14th on the series standings on 18 having not made the Main Cup quarters this season but there was no place for record Shujaa try scorer, Collins Injera who had resumed training with the side
  • Murunga is running out of events to retain Kenya's Core Status with only four tournaments remaining and is hoping their tour to Hong Kong 7s and Singapore- the leg Shujaa famously won in 2016- will inspire a final push to remain in the elite series
  • Top Fry Nakuru RFC’s Vivian Akumu is set to make her debut at the Son Kon Po Stadium on the April 4 in the only other change to the women's team that last played at Dubai 7s line-up

NAIROBI, Kenya- After an underwhelming season thus far where Kenya is flirting with relegation from the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, national team Shujaa head coach, Paul Murunga brought out the cavalry ahead of the seventh and eighth legs in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Murunga ran in seven changes from the team that toured Las Vegas and Vancouver where Kenya scored six points to remain 14th on the series standings on 18 having not made the Main Cup quarters this season but there was no place for record Shujaa try scorer, Collins Injera who had resumed training with the side.

At the same time, the corresponding women's national side Lionesses boss, Kevin Wambua, welcomed back Janet Owino to the fold a year after she suffered an ankle injury that ruled her out of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, the 2018 Africa Women’s 7s held last May in Botswana and the second leg of the 2018 HSBC Women’s Sevens Series, the Dubai 7s.

Murunga is running out of events to retain Kenya's Core Status with only four tournaments remaining and is hoping their tour to Hong Kong 7s and Singapore- the leg Shujaa famously won in 2016- will inspire a final push to remain in the elite series.

Kenya are in a 'killer' Group C in Hong Kong against New Zealand, Fiji and Australia. The All Blacks (106) and Fiji (101) trail each other in third and fourth while Australia (65) are sixth in the standings, underlining the enormity of the challenge facing Shujaa in the April 5 to 7 Hong Kong tournament. 

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Former skipper Andrew Amonde, Augustine Lugonzo and Nelson Oyoo who last appeared for Shujaa at the 2018 Paris 7s make a comeback to the travelling squad alongside experienced campaigners, Eden Agero, Daniel Sikuta, Jeffrey Oluoch and Oscar Dennis. 

The seven will be backed by 2018/2019 season regulars; Daniel Taabu, Vincent Onyala, Shaddon Munoko, Bush Mwale, Mark Wandeto and Johnstone Olindi. The team is skippered by Jeffrey Oluoch.

It comes after Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) that saw a change of guard at the top when Oduor Gangla took over from Richard Omwela as chairman went sat down with the experienced players who had boycotted the side over long-standing issues with bonuses, with the youngsters given a chance by Murunga thrown at the deep end of the furiously competitive series.

Ten points target

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Murunga had earlier stated that the old boys would be given a chance to fight for a spot in the travelling squad since the team that has been training from the start of the 2018/2019 season would be retained.

Canada's Phil Berna dives in a try against Kenya on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Vancouver on 9 March, 2019. Photo credit: Mike Lee - KLC fotos for World Rugby


“Our target is to get 10 points in each tournament. We haven't achieved that yet and it's not impossible to achieve. We have seen teams coming from winning only one game in a tournament to getting in the final in the next. The pool is definitely hard considering our previous out against them.

"Where we are standing now, no team is easy for us, we have to fight very hard to get a win. And again no team is unbeatable so we also have to play to win,” the Shujaa boss stressed ahead of their early Monday morning departure for Singapore.

Four of the players who were on duty in Las Vegas and Canada 7s picked up injuries and miss out on the Asian tour with captain Jacob Ojee withdrawing from the team because of academic commitments that see him sit out these two tournaments but he is expected back for the season-closing London and Paris 7s legs.

On the other hand, Owino relished her comeback to the Lioness squad after battling to recover from her career-threatening injury. 

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“I’m very happy to be back on national duty with my team mates. They have been very supportive throughout the last 12 months and this has played a role in my recovery. 

"I'm also grateful for the management team who stood by me throughout my rehab period as well as Lamech Bogonko who played an integral part in it,” the seasoned Lioness told.

Top Fry Nakuru RFC’s Vivian Akumu is set to make her debut at the Son Kon Po Stadium on the April 4 in the only other change to the women's team that last played at Dubai 7s line-up. 

Captain Philadelphia Olando, Sheila Chajira, Cynthia Camilla, Sinaida Aura, Diana Awino, Janet Okello, Grace Adhiambo, Christabel Lindo and Stella Wafula have been retained by Wambua. Lindo, Awino and Wafula made their debut in Dubai last year.   

Lionesses are in Pool B alongside Papua New Guinea, hosts Hong Kong and next door neighbours, Uganda. 

Bringing A game

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“Being pooled with the host nation our fellow neighbours, Uganda and Papua New Guinea means we have to bring our A game from the first game throughout our entire pool games.

"It’s a challenge that the team and I are looking forward to. We also know that if we want to qualify we have to beat all the other 11 teams and that’s what we have to focus on; A game at a time in the process," Wambua noted.

“It’s all about building consistency and a good team which is no easy task. We have a few players who made their debut in Dubai: Christabel Lindo, Diana Awino and Stella Wafula. The team is also very well balanced looking at the experience of players like Chajira, Olando, Aura, Akello and Camila who I'm sure will be up to the task,” Wambua added on his selection.

Kenya 7s Squads

Shujaa - Daniel Taabu, Eden Agero, Vincent Onyala, Oscar Dennis, Jeff Oluoch- Captain, Nelson Oyoo, Augustine Lugonzo, Shaddon Munoko, Bush Mwale, Mark Wandeto, Andrew Amonde, Johnstone Olindi, Daniel Sikuta

Lionesses - Philadelphia Olando- Captain, Sheila Chajira, Sinaida Aura, Janet Okello, Janet Owino, Diana Awino, Cynthia Camilla, Grace Adhiambo, Christabel Lindo, Sophia Ayieta, Stella Wafula, Vivian Akumu

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