By Ronald Wese
Kenya's Shujaa will be joining France, New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji, Australia, Uruguay, Ireland, and the USA in next year's Paris Olympic after securing a 17-12 win against rivals South Africa in Harare, Zimbabwe over the weekend. This is a huge shift and monumental step following the crushing disappointment of missing out on Sevens qualification after being despatched by Canada in the finals of the World Rugby Sevens in May.
"I'm super happy, we had planned this and we're lucky for the boys. The boys stood out and having 6 rookies joining the team giving an outstanding performance, made it a great seller performance," captain Vincent Onyala said.
Early wins over Zambia, Namibia, and Nigeria enabled Kenya to top Pool B and reach the quarter-finals where they thrashed Burkina Faso 26-0. A 35-10 win over hosts Zimbabwe saw the 12-man team pierce through the semi-final to meet South Africa which portrayed a threatening form by scoring 120 points and only conceding 14, guiding them to the final.
With four tries from former Springbok winger Rosko Specman- who recently bounced back in the international arena, South Africa ousted their opening opponents Ivory Coast and soon shone their victories over Tunisia and Madagascar. The Blitzboks easily penetrated the quarter-finals after a 27-0 win against Nigeria but they toiled for their slot in the final place which saw them scourge Uganda 26-14.
Daystar Falcon's winger Patrick Odongo gave Kenya an early lead in the finals but trailed 12-7 at the break after conceding tries from Selvyn Davids and Christie Grobbelaar. Odongo again equalized the scores in the second half before John Okoth scored the try which steered Kenya into the Olympics.
"This is big coming from being relegated last season. Grinding like this with 6 rookies just shows what we can do as a team and our plan moving forward is to take the team back to the HSBC Circuit," Coach Kevin Wambua said.
South Africa and Uganda finished third after a 24-12 win over Zimbabwe. The battle is not over yet as both have qualified for the Olympic tournament.