NAIROBI, July 9 (Xinhua) -- Once hailed as a bright spark in the annual HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, Kenya has endured lean times of late, flirting with relegation from the international competition over the past two seasons.
On June 30, World Rugby announced the remaining five legs of the 2020 Sevens Series had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a decision that left Kenya ranked 12th, avoiding relegation and preserving their core status.
Despite the underwhelming performances from the team, Vincent Onyala has provided a bright spark and hope for the future, as the side known as Shujaa plots for a return to prominence next season.
Onyala, who plays for local side KCB RFC, was handed his Kenya Sevens debut by Paul Murunga Amunavi at the 2018 Cape Town Sevens.
He went on to become Shujaa's top try scorer during the 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens season with 22 tries.
With the 2019/20 season concluded early due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted sport globally, Onyala once again ended up at the summit of Shujaa's try-scoring charts, having made a total of 13 touchdowns.
"Getting to be the team's top try scorer two seasons in a row is something I am proud of and one that pushes me to keep working hard."
"Working away from my comfort zone is something I set out to achieve each day and when you step into the pitch, knowing you're representing your country, you just have to give each match your best," the player told Kenya Rugby Union.
Onyala credits his budding partnership with Shujaa teammate Alvin 'Bufallo' Otieno as the catalyst for his improved form, saying they hold one-on-one sessions regularly to develop their game as the lynchpins of Kenya 7s attacks.
"At the end of the day, I always want to enjoy myself and the best way to do so is when I express myself fully with the ball in hand and when I'm running in support of my teammates," the emerging star added.
Team captain Andrew Noel Amonde believes Onyala is destined for better things.
"Onyala has a brilliant mind and with that, his understanding of the game is spectacular. That's why he is always at the right place when we're attacking and knows what to do when defending."
"He has been the perfect utility player for Shujaa, he executes his roles as a forward or back greatly," the seasoned skipper observed.
Amonde, who has been with the team for over a decade, tipped Onyala to be central to their ambitions in the coming season, including featuring at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics where Kenya will feature for the second time.
Having made their debut at the Rio 2016 Games, Shujaa punched their ticket to Tokyo by thrashing neighbours Uganda 31-0 in the final of the continental qualifier in Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019.
"We still have a lot more that we need to achieve as a national team and I hope to see him continue reaching many more milestones," Amonde added on Onyala.
The team that seeks to reach the highs of reaching the Rugby World Cup Sevens semifinals twice and winning the Singapore 7s title in April 2016 in the World Series will bank on Onyala to script its next glorious chapter.