South African head coach Paul Treu on Thursday conceded it was a challenge to put up a squad of 12 as he once again named an under strength Kenyan national rugby sevens side for the second leg of the HSBC World Sevens Series in Dubai.
Treu saw his charges crash out of the Main Cup quarters before going on to lose the Shield final in the tournament opener in Gold Coast in October after a crippling disagreement between senior players and Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) forced him to name a youth squad.
In an Olympics qualification year, the return of only two points that left them 14th out of 16 in the standings was greeted with dismay but the country's expectations to bounce back in Dubai next weekend and Pretoria a week later were dampened after commitments and injuries denied Treu his strongest possible side.
Local club Resolution Impala Saracens playmaker Samson Onsomu was handed his national team maiden call up in the team that is placed in a tough pool against Australia, England and the tasty clash against USA coached by Treu's predecessor, Mike Friday for the tournament that runs on Dec. 5 and 6.
"One player is getting his first call up, four players are playing their second tournament and Dennis Muhanji is only playing his third tournament since his last outing a few years ago. We are very excited and can't wait to see the guys play," the optimistic Treu declared.
"Some players like Collins Injera, Lavin Asego are not available due to other commitments. It was a bit of a challenge to put this team together but I think we have a good mix especially with some of the experienced players coming into the side, especially in the forwards," Treu said. "I think a player like Oscar Ayodi is going to add a lot of value to the team when it comes to our attacking abilities," the coach said as he outlined the hurdles facing his technical bench for Dubai with the third leg in Pretoria looming in the horizon a week after the Middle East stop.
"We are looking forward to the next two tournaments and hopefully we can build on the momentum we started," he hoped.
The losses of Injera, the country's vice-captain and leading try scorer, Asego, Adema and Ayange among other senior players was felt in Australia where Kenya got off to a strong start against series new boys American Samoa 42-0 before surrendering to Wales 24-19 and being hammered 45-0 by African rivals South Africa to crash out of the Main Cup quarters.
They then lost the Shield final 40-7 to Canada on Day 2 having earlier beaten Japan 17-15 in the semi final after having been relegated from the Bowl competition following a 19-17 loss to Portugal.
Preparations for Dubai and Pretoria were rocked losing a couple of its stars, Horace Otieno and Oscar Ouma, who signed on as a professional for Kandy Sports Club in Sri Lanka last month.
The KRU have spent heavily to hire Treu and his South African technical bench last season with the aim to qualify Kenya for the Rio Olympics via the HSBC World Series route that will see the top four finishers at the end of the season gain automatic entry.