Kenya men’s rugby sevens teams have over the years produced breath-taking moments and heartbreaks alike in their rise from a typical mid-level table side to the cusp of riveting glory at the global stage.
This past weekend, the team commonly known as ‘Shujaa’ produced a rather unexpected performance to reach the Vancouver Sevens tournament final. They eventually lost 12-35 to Fiji to cap off what a hugely successful campaign. This was an impressive feat no doubt but there are other key moments in the past when Kenya has electrified the rugby world.
World Cup Semi-finalists (2009, 2013)
In the 2009 edition held in Dubai, Kenya finished second in Pool E behind England after victories over Tunisia and Hong Kong respectively. This set up a quarter-final berth against the highly dangerous Fiji who were expected to win. Shujaa however turned on the style to emerge 26-7 winners. They lost 0-12 in the final four to Argentina.
Four years later in Russia, Shujaa topped Pool C after dispatching Philippines and Zimbabwe before a narrow 17-12 win over Samoa. In the last eight, the team beat highly fancied France 24-19 but eventually went down 5-12 the superior England as they finished fourth.
Kings of Singapore (2016)
This remains to be Kenya’s best performance to date in the IRB Word Seven Series. The stage was set in the National Stadium where Shujaa just squeezed into the knockout round on points difference. Out of three group matches, Kenya picked up six points after one win, one loss and a draw to finish second behind South Africa.
In the quarter-final, they beat France 28-7 before dumping out Argentina in the semis in a 15-12 win. What ensued put the world on notice. Shujaa were going to face Fiji, an elite sevens team that had eliminated South Africa (26-21) to make the final. A determined Kenyan side whitewashed their more illustrious opponents 30-7 to be crowned kings of Singapore.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games set for Australia kicks off in April and Kenya will once again line up against the elite teams. Surely, can the proverbial dark horses cause another major upset?