Preview: USA Sevens
Thu, 07 Feb 2013 15:46
The belief is there
Kenya’s impressive form in the IRB Sevens World Series sees them head into this weekend's USA Sevens ranked second in the standings behind New Zealand.
Following a heartbreaking, sudden death Cup final defeat to England at last weekend's leg in Wellington, coach Mike Friday has had time to reflect on their season as the half-way stage approaches.
"We didn't expect that [to be second] at the start of the season. We would have been mad if we sat here and even contemplated that was what we had thought," said Friday.
"Our aim was consistency, but now the key is longevity and sustaining that. Realistically a fair reflection of this team would have been top eight, but that is not to say we are over performing - we are just performing well.
"The reality is though if we don't perform well this weekend we won't find ourselves in second we could find ourselves sixth or seventh. The margins are so fine between the top eight, it is a tough brutal part of sport but that is what makes it so exciting and competitive, and that is why it is growing as a sport."
Before losing out to Sam Edgerley's extra time try at the Westpac Stadium, Friday's side won all three of their pool matches on Day One, and then defeated South Africa 21-20 and came from 14-0 behind to record victory over New Zealand 19-14 to make their first final since 2009.
Not only is Friday hoping he won't have to wait long until Kenya reach another, the former England coach puts their performance this season down to belief.
"I am hoping it won't be so long until the next one," added Friday. "I am immensely proud of the boys, although it is still heartbreaking to think about. As I have said all along, though, sport is brutal and it wasn't meant to be.
"Whether we deserved to win or not is a non-point. The reality is, two seconds on the clock to go it didn't quite happen for us, but c'est la vie.
"We had a tough route to the final, we had to beat everybody and we had some mental blocks with the likes of South Africa and New Zealand, which was a huge positive to overcome them the way we did.
"The way we operated testified how we have developed as a Sevens nation. We have the power and the pace to cause any team problems. The mental aspect is starting to come, but the boys. I don't think they over performed, I think they performed to their potential, so I am hoping we can kick on.
"I think there is also a belief in themselves and each other now. Obviously you don't want to get caught up in the romance and the dreams of winning Cups, because as soon as you do that then your eye is taken off the ball and the process in hand.
"But the belief system is there, we have worked on that. That was another mental block that was hurting us, it hurt us in Dubai and it hurt us in the Gold Coast.
"Confidence and belief is so important, as long as you don't let it turn into arrogance, and these boys are so far level headed, keeping their feet on the ground and recognising it is hard work and attention to detail that can often make the difference."
This weekend Kenya will be tasked with making that difference count in pool matches against Canada, Uruguay and South Africa, with the all-African affair their 30th encounter, and last week's victory being only Kenya's third overall.
South Africa are joint fourth on the log with Fiji and France with 51 points.
Pool stage schedule:
(Kick-off times are local - GMT plus eight hours)
Friday, February 8:
Match 1: England v Fiji, 16.00
Match 2: Scotland v Portugal, 16.22
Match 3: Kenya v Canada, 16.44
Match 4: South Africa v Uruguay, 17.06
Match 5: New Zealand v France, 17.28
Match 6: Argentina v Wales, 17.50
Match 7: Samoa v Spain, 18.12
Match 8: Australia v United States, 18.34
Match 9: England v Portugal, 18.56
Match 10: Scotland v Fiji, 19.18
Match 11: Kenya v Uruguay, 19.40
Match 12: South Africa v Canada, 20.02
Match 13: New Zealand v Wales, 20.24
Match 14: Argentina v France, 20.46
Match 15: Australia v Spain, 21.08
Match 16: Samoa v United States, 21.30
Saturday, February 9:
Match 17: Fiji v Portugal, 12.00
Match 18: Canada v Uruguay, 12.22
Match 19: France v Wales, 12.44
Match 20: Samoa v Australia, 13.06
Match 21: England v Scotland, 13.28
Match 22: Kenya v South Africa, 13.50
Match 23: New Zealand v Argentina, 14.12
Match 24: Spain v United States, 14.34
(Quarterfinals start at 16.24)
(Semifinals and finals to be played on Sunday, February 10 from 09.20)
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