After a two-year absence, Rwanda national rugby team will be seeking to make an impression in the Safari Sevens (formerly Safaricom Sevens) that kicks off today at the Safaricom Stadium in Nairobi.
The Silverbacks failed to participate in the previous two editions due to invites to the tournament coming late, which offered little training time, according to Rwanda Rugby Federation officials.
However, team captain Vincent Kamali says the fitness levels are much higher because the players have had more playing time in local 7s tournaments and the league in the lead up to the Safari sevens.
“We want to do our best and show them that 7s rugby is growing in Rwanda, such that next time invites come on time and not a week towards the tournament,” Kamali told Times Sport from Nairobi.
Kamali added that, “This is an opportunity for the young players to gain more exposure.”
The team is under the guidance of David Haddock. The Englishman joined the Silverbacks from Uganda after a two year stint with the two-time Genocide Memorial 7s Tournament winner, the Jinja Hippos.
Haddock says, “We have a relatively young squad with few experienced players and we are planning to play a wide game, using our space. We are a small team physically but in sevens you can use the width and speed unlike in fifteens.”
Rwanda is in Pool A along with Kenya Shujaa (the Kenyan sevens team) , Portugal and Cape Warriors while Pool B has Western Province, Homeboys , Belhar Rocket and Pool C comprises Samurai International , Zimbabwe, Morocco and Red Wailers.
Samurai International are the defending champions. The Silverbacks last participated in the tournament in 2014 where the U-19s reached the final.
The trip to Nairobi, means the national rugby league final which had been scheduled for this weekend, will now be postponed to another date.
The Silverbacks squad:
Benjamin Akami Makombe, Jean de Dieu Hakizimana, Niyoneza Gerard, Heretier Habimana, Emmanuel Dushime, Mugisha Michel, Jean Paul Hajali, Olivier Uwamahoro, Peirre Niyoyita, Fils Fidele Irumva, Diego Dusenge, Vincent Kamali.