Kenya Lionesses coach Dennis Mwanja not giving up on Olympics qualification after Africa Sevens heartbreak

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RUGBY Kenya Lionesses coach Dennis Mwanja not giving up on Olympics qualification after Africa Sevens heartbreak

Joel Omotto 09:33 - 16.10.2023

The Kenya Lionesses coach is still confident of a place at next year’s Olympics as his side embark on preparations for the final qualification tournament in 2024

Kenya Lionesses head coach Dennis Mwanja remains confident of sealing qualification to the Paris 2024 Olympics after missing out on an automatic ticket following defeat to South Africa at the Africa Sevens in Tunis, Tunisia on Sunday.

The Lionesses lost 12-7 to South Africa in the cup final when they failed to hold onto their slim lead after turning the game from 5-0 down to lead 7-0 before their opponents stole a march over them in the dying seconds of the encounter.

Mwanja is, however, keeping hope alive that a place in the Olympics is still possible through the repechage which will take place next year, drawing confidence from their gallant performance in Tunis.

“We came in with our heads held high playing a game at a time, we dared and believed we were going to qualify for the Olympics and we still believe we are destined to qualify for the Olympics,” said Mwanja.

“We are proud of how we played even getting to the final and managing, in spite of the result, to give South Africa a run for their money.”

The Lionesses coach feels his charges could have won were it not for a few mistakes that proved costly when pressure built up.

“We came not to fill up the numbers, we came to contend for the trophy. The girls played their hearts out but in the final, it is the details that matter. Passing, decision-making, and execution everyone wants to win but it is about execution,” he added.

“There is so much pressure and when there is so much pressure on the skill levels that is when mistakes happen. So, a team that makes less mistakes carries the day. We made one or two mistakes that turned the tide against us but the game would have gone either way so I am proud of the girls.”

Kenya will now go through the grueling 2024 Final Olympic Qualifying Tournament scheduled for June 2024 where 12 teams, the two runners-up from each of the six continental confederations, will participate with the winner earning the last remaining spot for the Games.

It will be a tough ask for the Lionesses but Mwanja has backed his squad to finish the job as he believes it has a good blend of youth and experience.

“There were young players, I am looking at young Sharon Auma who is barely a year in the team, looking at Phoebe Akinyi, Judith Okumu, Diana Awino and Dorcas Nyachio who are 20 so it is a good mixture of youth and experience led by Janet Okello, Grace Okulu who has been with the team for so long as the captain,” said Mwanja.

“We have a good future, plus we have Sheila Chajira who has just recovered from injury. The team will be beefed up. We covet the support of the programmes from the rugby union and government. So, we prepare for the other tournaments in China, Poland and Uruguay as we prepare to make it through the other longer route.”