Kenya Sevens rugby team might have been inconsistent in the last six legs of the 2019/2020 World Sevens Series, but experienced speedster Collins Injera is adamant Shujaa can still secure a top ten finish.
Shujaa have blown hot and cold so far this season despite the arrival of World Cup-winning New Zealand coach Paul Feeney and the return of key senior players.
With four legs to go, the former Singapore sevens champions are currently 12th on the overall table standings with 35 points after garnering a total of nine points in the last two legs in Los Angeles (three) and Vancouver (six).
Kenya started off their campaign on a poor note bagging only four points in Dubai. They then bounced back and demonstrated some flashes of brilliance in Cape Town, South Africa and Hamilton, New Zealand where they reached the Cup quarter-finals before hitting a new low by picking up a single point in Sydney.
Though Shujaa’s inconsistency is a far cry from four years ago when they clinched their first-ever Main Cup trophy in Singapore, Injera, who returned to the fold during the Hamilton round after over a season out, is confident the team will achieve its targets.
The London and Paris Sevens legs were recently provisionally postponed to September due to the coronavirus pandemic, preceding the Singapore and Hong Kong events rescheduled for October.
“We didn’t have an impressive performance in the last three legs as expected by many people in terms of results, but I think we are still on the track to achieving the goals we set at the beginning of the year. First was to have a strong team for the Olympics Games and then finish among the top ten,” Injera told Standard Sports.
“But I don’t think there should be any relegation fears. I’ve trust in the squad we have and I can safely say, we are above that. Though you never know what can happen, we will just keep on fighting and get those points in the remaining leg. We are still on course to achieving our top ten target.”
In reference to team tactics, the second top all-time try-scorer (279) said: “What we were trying to do is to expose as many players as possible in the series so that by the time the team is picked for the Olympics everybody had a chance to showcase what he can do. That’s the risk when you keep rotating the squad; as you can see most of the teams have been sticking with the same squads that started off in Dubai.
“Unlike them, we’ve been making a minimum of five changes in every leg. That comes with its own risks, sometimes you will find the bonding doing well and sometimes results fail to go your way.
“Like you’ve seen we didn’t have a definite starting line up, every game had a different line-up. We might have lost some matches, but the margins were very slim. That’s something we can always work on,” he said.
But after Tuesday’s postponement of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games to next year owing to the deadly virus that is ravaging the world, the Mwamba RFC star says Kenya is now more determined to finish the season on a high note once the pandemic is contained.
“Everyone was looking forward to the Olympics, but our health comes first. We are sad with the postponement but it is also good because no one wanted to get the virus,” said Injera, who is in line to play make his second Olympics appearance.
“Every player dreams to play in the Olympics and most people had already focused their resources and minds towards that event. But when you hear that the event has been postponed, it is heartbreaking yes, but it also shows that in sports things can happen and we need to be dynamic. Many peoples’ dreams and career were based on these games, but we need to keep the faith and see if we will be there to achieve those goals next year.”
He continued: “For now the future is quite uncertain, but I’m glad we managed to expose more players in the last few legs. We’ve also been trying out a new system in terms of our attack and defence which takes time to gel because the squad keeps on rotating. It’s a very slow but steady curve, but in the next few tournaments we should be in the right place.
“I think moving forward, we will be able to get a good team. Everybody has been tested and has got a feeling of how tough it is outside there. So, it is up to the coaches and the management to select a strong team.”
And even as he nears to exit the scene, Injera believes the smooth transition in the team will secure Shujaa’s future.
“I see the blending of experienced players and those young players it’s a good thing for the development of the team. This will make sure there is no problem with the transition in the team something that we have been struggling with over the years,” said Injera.
“But I think this time round the technical bench tried to get the balance, something that Innocent Simiyu also tried to do during his time in the dugout.
“It is my hope that the transition will keep going on. Yes, these young players are individually talented but when it comes to team dynamics and scope of the game, that’s where they really need to understand. Now, that’s where they need the senior players to help them fit in and understand the game.
“But from my own assessment, I think the future will be only safe if we get the transition and the upbringing of the young players correct.”
Asked on how he is coping with the government’s 14 days self-quarantine directive after they jetted back into the country on March 10 from the Vancouver assignment, Injera said: “It is not easy but I’m managing. I’m also using this time to make sure all the knocks that I picked up in the last two legs are back to zero.”