- Shujaa lost to Canada in the final of the play-off tournament
- They dropped to the relegation play off after finishing 13th in the regular season
- They will play in the Challenger Series next season
National Rugby Sevens team Shujaa has been relegated from the World Rugby Sevens Series and is no longer a core team after losing 12-7 to Canada in the final of the play-off tournament in London.
Shujaa had been forced to play the relegation and promotion tournament after finishing 13th in the regular season, and the defeat to the Canadians now mean Shujaa have lost core status, one they gained in the 2004-15 season.
The Kenyan team has played 19 seasons as a core team ad the relegation is a massive fall from grace for a side that won the Singapore 7s title in 2016.
Against Canada, Shujaa started brightly, seeing more of the ball and indeed scored off a stolen ball from a Canadian lineout, Billy Odhiambo playing in captain Nelson Oyoo who turned his defenders inside out before touching down.
Tony Omondi converted to put Shujaa 7-0 ahead.
The loss of Kevin Wekesa seemed to knock the wind out of the Shujaa sails as Canada began to see more of the ball and they did score at the stroke of half time, Brock Webster converting Josiah Morra’s try to level up scores, 7-7 at the break.
The second half remained tight, either side committing themselves on defense.
Alex Russell’s late try and the ensuing penalty advantage meant Canada were in possession at full time, kicking the ball out to confirm their status for next season.
Shujaa have now dropped to the regional qualification tournaments, and will only play select tournaments as an invitational team and not necessarily a core side.
Kenyan rugby sent into meltdown
The defeat and ultimate relegation has sent the Kenyan rugby world into meltdown, former players and coaches, as well fans lamenting the drop in standards by the team that was hoisted to the top of the world by the late Benjamin Ayimba.
And now, the Kenya Rugby Union has promised a comprehensive review of the team and its performance, and will announce the next steps in the coming days.
“In the coming days, we will conduct a comprehensive review of the 2022-2023 World Sevens Series season and based on the findings and recommendations in the review, the board will make informed decisions and guide the next steps to realign the team and set it on a path to success,” the statement, signed by KRU chair Sasha Mutai, states.
It adds; “Shujaa will honor their pre-arranged commitments for the remainder of the year. They have been invited to the New York City Sevens tournament on July 15th, alongside other top global rugby Sevens teams. Over the next six weeks, we will work tirelessly to enhance Shujaa’s competitiveness, implementing the recommended remedial measures from the review.”
Shujaa’s focus will now be on the Africa Cup which is scheduled for September 16 and 17 in Zimbabwe, with the focus being on earning an Olympic qualification ticket. Shujaa lost the title last year after being eliminated in the semis, and ended up finishing third to just but qualify for the Olympic Games.
The team has been rocked with various issues over the last few years, biggest of them being financial, with players lamenting of no pay for months, leading to the loss of motivation.
Now, the Union has its work cut out to build the team afresh and ensure a speedy return to World Rugby Sevens core status.
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