South Africa’s Bitzbok top the bill as the Safari Sevens return to Nairobi this weekend, thanks to a lucrative sponsorship deal with Kenya Breweries Limited.
The team includes veteran playmaker Cecil Afrika, a regular in the Blitzboks since debuting in the World Series a decade ago, amassing a record 1,440 points for his country, which places him sixth on the World Series all-time list. He returns after undergoing an operation in June to fix a torn bicep.
Captain Siviwe Soyizwapi is one of seven players in the squad that boast World Rugby Sevens Series experience. Impi Visser and Angelo Davids made their Blitzboks debuts last season, while Soyizwapi, Selvyn Davids, James Murphy and Cecil Afrika are all World Series winners from the 2017-18 season.
Selvyn Davids, Soyizwapi, Visser and Murphy were also part of the squad that won the Oktoberfest 7s title in Munich last month.
The good news for Kenya is that all their top players are back on board after last year’s pay strikes. The disruption saw them finish 13th in the World Series, their worst showing of the decade. New Zealander Paul Feeney has been appointed new head coach of the host nation, while veteran Andrew Amonde will skipper the team, which also features all-time top try scorer Collins Injera.
Kenya’s second string side – the Morans – will be captained by veteran Jeff Oluoch. Other experienced players back in the squad are Willy Ambaka and Nelson Oyoo.
Defending champions Samurai have named a strong line-up. The side is full of players who have World Series or academy experience with their countries, including Australian captain Tom Connor and his deputy W.J. Strydom of South Africa.
Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Burundi have also confirmed their involvement, along with Russia, Spain, a French selection, and South African provincial powerhouses Western Province and the Blue Bulls.
Fiji Sevens legend Waisale Serevi will be coaching the Russian team in Kenya. Serevi was appointed last year to lead the side back into the World Series. The short term goal is to try and qualify for the European GPX series, while in the long term Russia hopes to reach the World Cup.
The Spanish squad includes Alejandro Sanchez Del la Rosa. who had 13 appearances in their 2019 World Series. Francisco Osete, Juan Martinez, Diego Periel and Noel Carrion also featured as Spain finished 12th ahead of Kenya.
Zimbabwe, Safari Sevens finalists in 1996, 2006 and 2007, are using the tournament to build up for next month’s Africa Cup Sevens in Johannesburg, which will serve as the African qualifying round for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Uganda will be captained by veteran Michael Wokorach, while the team also features Solomon Okia, Aaron Oforywoth, Desire Ayera and Joseph Aredo. Talented fullback Philip Wokorach misses out as he recently embarked on a professional career in the French third tier.
In what has been described as a “Cinderella story” for Ugandan rugby, the younger Wokorach signed a nine-month contract with Bourges last weekend after making an impressive debut as Bourges beat Uzerche 27-7 in the French Fifth Division Championship.
Safari Sevens pools
Pool A: South Africa, Uganda, Morans, Burundi
Pool B: Samurai, Western Province, Narvskaya Zastava
Pool C: Shujaa, Blue Bulls, Russia Academy, Zambia
Pool D: Spain, Zimbabwe, Seventise, KCB RFC
Uganda vs Morans, 9.30am
South Africa vs Burundi, 9.50am
Western Province vs Zastava, 10.10am
Samurai vs Red Wailers, 10.30am
Blue Bulls vs Russia Academy, 10.50am
Shujaa vs Zambia, 11.10am
Zimbabwe vs Seventise, 11.30am
Spain vs KCB, 11.50am
Uganda vs Burundi, 12.20pm
South Africa vs Morans, 12.40pm
Western Province vs Red Wailers, 1pm
Samurai vs Zastava, 1.20pm
Blue Bulls vs Zambia, 1.40pm
Shujaa vs Russia Academy, 2pm
Zimbabwe vs KCB, 2.20pm
Spain vs Seventise, 2.40pm
Morans vs Burundi, 3.10pm
Zastava vs Red Wailers, 3.30pm
Russia Academy vs Zambia, 3.50pm
Seventise vs KCB, 4.10pm
South Africa vs Uganda, 4.30pm
Samurai vs Western Province, 4.50pm
Shujaa vs Blue Bulls, 5.10pm
Spain vs Zimbabwe, 5.30pm
Cecil Afrika, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Stedman Gans, Selvyn Davids, Angelo Davids, Darren Adonis, Qamani Kota, Shilton Van Wyk, James Murphy, Christoffel Grobbelaar, Impi Visser, Divan Enslin
Jamie Anderson (England), Josh Bassingthwaite (South Africa), Tom Connor (Australia), Ronnie du Randt (England), Richard Mill (Scotland), Ruan Mostert (South Africa), Dewald Naude (South Africa), Pierre Peres (France), Dylan Pietsch (Australia), Nico Pouplot (France), Hayden Sargeant (Australia), WJ Strydom (South Africa), Charlie Tupu (Australia)
Andrew Amonde (c), Bush Mwale, Willy Ambaka, Brian Wandera, Charles Omondi, Collins Injera, Mickey Wanjala, Daniel Taabu, Oscar Denis, Nelson Oyoo, Mike Okello, Jacob Ojee
Jeff Oluoch (c), Vincent Onyala, Alvin Otieno, Timothy Mmasi, Dan Sikuta, Monate Akwei, Herman Humwa, Ian Mabwa, Davis Nyaundi, Johnstone Olindi, Geoffrey Okwach, Joel Inzuga, Collins Shikoli
James Hare, Chrisant Ojwang, Bryan Juma, Tony Omondi, Iago Davies, Alvin Marube, Blake Morgan, Ciaran Moore, Elkeans Musonye, Ben Bell, Walter Okoth, Bob Muhati, Archadius Khwesa
Andres Arnau, Nil Baro, Eduardo Lopez, Noel Carrion, Jorge Calvo,Eric Goni, Juan Martinez, Francisco Osete, Alejandro Sanchez de la Rosa, Diego Periel, Eduardo Bolinches, Ramon Fernandez de Caleya
Maxience Blanc, Josias Daoudou, Pierre Chapolin, Dan Rowland, Matthieu Delcourt, Noe Larribe, Luca Mignot, Benjamin Laufer, Florian Makala, Nicolas Lambert, Michel Guiborat, Valentin Insardi, Aurelion Chaumont
Stephan Hunduza (c), Njabulo Ndlovu, Blythe Mavesere, Emmanuel Zangari, Martin Mangongo, Ngoni Chibuwe, Nelson Madida, Andrea Banda, Biselele Tshamala, Hilton Mudariki, Tarisa Mugariri, Takudzwa Kumadiro
Michael Wokorach (c), Pius Ogena, Kevin Kerumundu,Solomon Okia, William Nkore, Desire Ayera, Ian Munyani,Joseph Aredo, Nobert Okeny, Adrian Kasito, Aaron Ofoyrwoth, Timothy Odong