Kenyans Lose Shield, Not From Their Flag
SAN DIEGO, Calif., Feb. 11 – In an apparent trade of fortunes between Kenya and South Africa at this year’s U.S.A. Sevens Rugby tournament in San Diego’s PETCO Park, South Africa took home the competition’s second highest trophy – the Plate – after a 28-19 win over Scotland.
Last year in Los Angeles, Kenya won the Shield after defeating the United States. South Africa returned home empty handed.
The South Africans started the final day of the contest with a 26-21 loss to Fiji. Although this was a bad start, it should have been a warning to South Africa’s potential opponents. Fiji was the top performer at the competition; therefore, a five-point loss to them was not bad, said Paul Treu, South Africa’s coach.
“I’m pleased by the fight we put up,” Treu said. “We really gave our best out there.”
Earlier in the tournament Treu had expressed his respect for island teams, saying he always expected a “physical battle” every time South Africa faced one. Fiji went on to win the Cup, the competition’s top trophy.
In the second match, the Plate semifinal, the South Africans dominated the team that ended their quest for a trophy last year, England, to win 21-14 and qualify for the final. Mzwandile Stick and Gcobani Bobo scored all South Africa’s points, 11 and 10, respectively.
In the final game against Scotland, the South Africans played knowing all African eyes were on them, after Argentina eliminated any hope of the Kenyans winning any trophy by whopping them 22-5.
The match against Scotland was so physical that South Africa’s Marius Schoeman left the field bleeding profusely from the face after a collision with a Scottish player.
South African and Kenyan fans, who stayed on their feet for the entire match, urged their continent’s team on, shouting repeatedly, “We want another one, just like the other one” after every try.
With only a two-point lead and the clock ticking, the South Africans knew they needed to put more points on the board. The opportunity came when a Scottish player fumbled the ball in a tackle deep in his team’s territory. Johathan Mokuena wasted no time. He picked the ball up and dashed to the end zone, sealing Scotland’s fate.
The Africans chanted, danced, stamped their feet, blew horns and waved their flags. South Africa had just won the second highest award of the tournament!
This was the fourth consecutive year the tournament has been held in southern California. Fans traveled from all over the country to Los Angeles to show support for their teams. Last year, however, organizers decided to move the two-day, 16-team, tournament to PETCO Park – the official home of the San Diego Padres – with hopes that the popularity of the stadium and its downtown location, accessible by public transportation, would boost attendance.
This year USA Sevens, the organization that owns the competition had an international festival in the main parking lot outside the stadium, featuring food, beer and wine, and a children’s play area. Ticket holders were allowed to reenter the stadium from the festival area – a privilege that kept all matches well attended.
South Africa and Kenya are the only African teams that participate in the tournament every year.
About Edwin Okong'o - Mshale Contributing Editor
Edwin Okong'o is a Mshale Contributing Editor. Formerly he was the newspaper's editor.