Kenya qualify, but it's not enough for coach Ayimba

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 March, 2010, 12:00am

Qualifying for the quarter-finals of the Cup for the second year in a row is not enough to satisfy Kenyan coach Benjamin Ayimba.

The crowd-pleasing Kenyans, who lost in the semi-finals last year to eventual winners Fiji, made it through to the last eight as one of the two best runners-up along with the US.

Sizeable wins in their opening encounters against Korea and Zimbabwe gave Ayimba's team the points needed to ensure that even a 21-7 loss at the hands of South Africa could not deny them a place in the Cup competition.

While his team have set up a rerun of last year's quarter-final against New Zealand - when Kenya racked up a surprise 10-7 win - Ayimba was less than impressed with his team's attitude in the defeat against the South Africans. 'I'm not extremely happy, the boys didn't play how I expected them to,' he said. 'They didn't play with their hearts and it's taking a toll on me.'

'I think it's a fact they were aware they were going to qualify easily and that's not acceptable, especially when we are going for the championship.'

Not so long ago, such lofty aims would have been seen as beyond the Kenyans. But after last year's performances in Hong Kong, the African side are now not just one of the most popular teams in the tournament, they are among the most confident.

'Knowing that it can be done, it will make it easier to prepare for the quarter-finals,' Ayimba said. 'And knowing we can get to the semi-finals, not just losing but being able to take it all the way up, has helped. So I'm confident, I know we have the personnel to do it.'

The difficulty of the challenge that lies ahead, though, is not lost on Ayimba. New Zealand comfortably topped pool B with wins against France, Scotland and Taiwan and, in the process, the Kiwis scored 117 points and conceded just two tries.

Ayimba believes his side can once again compete with the most famous team in rugby. 'This will be the most difficult game of the season because New Zealand are coming back with a vengeance and they want this Cup so I know it's going to be difficult,' he said. 'On the other hand, we should be able to take them on physically. We need to prepare mentally tonight and we should be ready.'