Kenya Sevens slays South Africa to book Paris Olympics ticket

Tuesday September 19 2023
Kenya Sevens team celebrates after beating South Africa

Kenya Sevens team celebrates after beating South Africa 17-12 to lift the Rugby Africa Sevens trophy and qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Harare, Zimbabwe on September 17, 2023. PHOTO | RUGBY AFRIQUE


Having the players dream that it can be done is what propelled Kenya Sevens to recapture the Africa Rugby Sevens title and qualify for their third successive Olympic Games on Sunday.

Just when critics had written off Kenya Sevens after the country was relegated from the World Rugby Sevens Series, the team that had six new players, brought joy by stunning South Africa 17-12 in the final in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Kenya Sevens Head Coach Kevin “Bling” Wambua said that while they had done the hard work in training, the mental framework of his young team remained the focal point.

Kenya Sevens had lost the continental title to Uganda to settle third last year in a championship that doubled up as the 2022 Cape Town Rugby World Cup Sevens. 

Read: Kenya bow out of Cape Town Sevens

"We knew we were fit and could engage our opponents but we had to make them dream and believe in themselves," said Wambua.


Wambua explained that bringing back the Kenya Sevens cultures and camaraderie played a big role too besides working on their game structures and plans.

Wambua’s deputy Louis Kisia said collective team effort, both from the playing unit and technical team worked well.

The technical bench that pushed the boys also had Andrew Amonde (strength and conditioning coach), Lamech Bogonko (physiotherapist), Steven Sewe (team manager) and Chris Brown (strength and conditioning consultant). 

“The support from Kenya Rugby Union also played a big role in our revival," said Kisia. 

Ahead of the qualifier, Shujaa had a two-week training camp to sharpen their skills at St Andrew’s Turi in Nakuru County as the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (NOC-K) came in handy to boost the team with a Ksh1.5 million ($10,197) donation.   

Samuel ‘TinTin’ Asati, who was one of the six new players in Harare alongside Festus Shiasi (KCB), Nigel Amaitsa (Strathmore Leos), Odongo (Daystar Falcons), Bildad Ogeta (Menengai Oilers) and William Mwanji (Kabras Sugar), said they embraced the structure play.

“We had to control how the game was played on our own terms and give the opposition maximum pressure. We just had to hold out that awful feeling after we were relegated from the World Series,” says Asati.

Read: The fall and fall of Kenya Sevens Rugby Team

Asati noted that there has been a huge improvement in the team, especially, being clinical on set-pieces.

Shiasi added that their greatest inspiration was to play at the Olympics with the team having only one player, Vincent Onyala, who played at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Playing in the Olympics is a dream of every sportsperson,” explained Shiasi.

After dismantling Burkina Faso 26-0 in Cup quarter-final, Shujaa silenced hosts Zimbabwe 33-10 in semi-final before setting up a mouth-watering final clash with Blitzebokke.

The pulsating final was settled by the winning try from John Okoth after Patrick Odongo levelled the game at 12-12 by scoring two tries.

Onyala is the only surviving member of the team which competed at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with two-time Olympian Amonde now the strength and conditioning coach.

Kenya’s last Olympics squad also included William Ambaka, Collins Injera, Eden Agero, Daniel Taabu, Herman Humwa, Alvin Otieno, Billy Odhiambo, Jeff Oluoch, Nelson Oyoo, Jacob Ojee and Johnstone Olindi.

The team was due back home on Monday night.