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Commonwealth Games 2002
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Rugby 7's Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 16:53 GMT 17:53 UK
Kenya look to odd couple
Waisale Serevi, the Fijian playmaker
Andere thinks Osir is Serevi-like in his play

England will be relying on the talent of the 2m-rated Henry Paul for Commonwealth glory, Fiji on the sublime manoeuvring of Waisale Serevi.

Kenya, on the other hand, are looking to an odd combination for their sevens inspiration...a full-time student and a salesman.

Benjamin Ayimba, who only took up the game nine years ago, will put down his books for the first week of August to captain the minnows of the game.

Salesman Oscar Osir, meanwhile, will be relied upon for the team's inspiration.

Team manager Mark Andere revealed: "They're the two to watch out for. Benjamin has been captain of the sevens side for the last two years.

Mithcell Ocholla
Kenya have made in-roads in sevens

"His workrate is of a particularly high quality and his ball retention, covering and tackling are all very good.

"Oscar Osir is someone to compare with the services of Waisale Serevi. He is fast and can get around an opponent. He is our matchplayer."

Andere may have jumped the gun matching his playmaker to arguably the greatest sevens specialist in history.

But there is no doubting the enthusiasm and dedication of the players and coaching staff.

Both Osir and Ayimba have been regular features of the sevens team in the recent World Cup series, climaxing in shield wins in both Durban and Dubai.

And both the team captain, who psyches himself up for every match by praying and listening to rap music, and Osir admit they have plenty to improve on.

Ayimba said: "I need to improve my side step and ball handling skills," while Osir confessed, "Endurance is my strong point but side steps, my speed and power can all be worked on."

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We've progressed since the last Commonwealth Games and won't face the sort of results we did back then
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Andere himself knows there is still a lot to be done at every level.

Sevens is slowly on the up and, with a population of almost 30 million people, the country has some potential talent to pick from.

The team manager continued: "Sevens is becoming increasingly popular in Kenya and, unlike XVs, we are capable of matching the top sides in such a format.

"We have the stability of the team for the Games - four or five of our World Cup players are back in the side this time around - and there's some young blood there as well."

And, unlike some of the teams lining up this summer, the Africans have previous Commonwealth Games sevens experience.

They managed just two tries in Malaysia and were on the receiving end of a staggering 71-0 defeat to eventual runners-up Fiji.

Andere added: "I think we've progressed since the last Games and won't face the sort of results we did back then.

"But it's way too early for Kenya to talk about a medal and it's still going to be very tough for us."

Money battle

One of the major problems is getting a country, which is slowly coming round to sevens, interested.

Another is the current money available to make the sport tick.

"The main problem is that we rely heavily on sponsors but rugby in Kenya is already behind athletics, football and cricket in terms of popularity," he said.

"It really hinders our development and we hope that, if we impress on the world stage, that can change."

Manchester will be the first port of call.


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