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Kenya’s Shujaa Stage Bold Comeback to Win African Title & Secure Olympics Spot

Joshua Bassingthwaighte (L) of Samurai RFC, catches the line-out ball against Charles Omondi Owino of Kenya's national team Shujaa during the final of Safari Sevens, Kenya's annual rugby sevens tournament with professional and amature teams, in Nairobi, Kenya, on November 11, 2018. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

The Kenya men’s rugby Sevens team, Shujaa, qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo following their 31-0 win over Uganda at the finals of the Africa Men’s Sevens in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday. The 2019 Africa Men Sevens tournament, an annual rugby tournament is organized by Rugby Africa and doubled up as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualifiers for Africa.

Shujaa joins the Kenya Lionesses, the national women’s sevens rugby side, in the list of teams that have so far qualified for the Olympics, scheduled to take place from 24th July to 9th August 2020. The team, captained by Andrew Amonde, made a stellar display at the tournament, sailing through the group stage unbeaten with a 36-7 win over Ivory Coast, 50-0 over Senegal, before flooring Namibia 33-0 and Uganda 24-7 to emerge at the top of Pool B.

Having narrowly evaded relegation from the World Rugby Sevens Series last season, when it recorded its lowest performance ranking since 1999, the team hopes to put its best foot forward in the coming weeks and at the start of the new sevens circuit in December 2019. To this end, Kenya intends to leverage the experience of newly appointed New Zealander, Paul Feeney, who serves as the national technical director of rugby in the country.

The former Auckland and South African Stormers coach won the 2005 Rugby Sevens World Cup with Fiji and will now head the Kenya Sevens program, in addition to supporting the 15s and the women’s Lionesses teams in areas of skills and defense. Speaking to News Central in Nairobi on the team’s performance in Johannesburg, Paul Feeney said, ‘The goal was to win the tournament and qualify for the Olympics, which we achieved. We have 8 months to prepare for the Olympics and to that end, we need to get on the sevens circuit and put in some good performances. There are a number of areas such as fitness, strength and conditioning we will work on gradually and from each tournament we play, we will find out more about ourselves, the level we are playing at and where we need to be.”

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