ASK Oscar Ouma about how he became an internet sensation and the Kenyan shrugs his shoulders.
Or at least it looks like a shrug. Ouma’s boulders are so rocky they more rumble than shrug.
“Well, you know, rugby is a contact sport,” Ouma says.
Some make contact a little harder than others however, and if anyone can testify to that distinction it is Sonny Bill Williams.
Last weekend in Wellington the cross-code star lined up Ouma — a sevens player for Kenya — during the quarter-finals and licked his lips.
But instead of the Kenyan joining SBW’s long list of victims, the unexpected happened: Ouma put the dual international and boxing champion on his.
Ouma barrelled in with so much force that Williams bounced backwards and ended up on his backside.
The Kenyan stayed on his feet and the video of the collision raced around the world.
A humbled Williams even tweeted a link and said: “Sometimes you just have to admit u came up 2nd best.”
“I didn’t know it was going to be a big collision,” Ouma said.
“I didn’t even know it was him until I saw it on the big screen, and then I was like: “OK, so that was Sonny Bill Williams”.
“But rugby is all about the contact. It all depends on how you prepare yourself for that hit. He came at me a bit high.
“The boys are making fun of it. It is all over the internet. It is something for people at home to cheer about. It is one of those small things you can take away and build on this weekend.”
Kenya lost the quarter-final but Ouma’s run perfectly captured the African nation’s reputation on the global sevens rugby circuit: fearless and capable of sitting even the biggest names on their backside.
The Kenyan side trained at Leichhardt Oval on Tuesday ahead of the inaugural — and already sold out — Sydney Sevens tournament at Allianz Stadium this weekend.
Though stocked with mostly amateur players who juggle jobs and university studies with training, Kenya have emerged as a genuine contender in the world of sevens and have claimed the scalps of every top-ranked team on the circuit.
Ouma scored a try in the 2014 Wellington sevens to beat New Zealand and Kenya have also beaten Australia five times.
“The game of sevens has changed a lot. All the teams train a lot, so the skill level is way up there,” Ouma says.
“And it is a game of 14 minutes, anything can happen during that. The gap between the bigger teams and the smaller teams is not as big as it was in the previous years.
“Right now, even the smaller teams are giving the big teams a heck of a challenge.”
Kenya is one of several “lesser” teams who now routinely send a scare through the big boys and could easily make the semi-finals in Sydney.
Portugal beat New Zealand last year and the USA — coincidentally led by former Kenya coach Mike Friday — have emerged as a force and won the whole London tournament last season.
Ouma, 26, and his teammates are living proof that Kenya doesn’t only produce rake-thin distance runners, and having qualified for the Rio Games later this year, the sevens team is keen to add their names to a proud Kenyan history at the Olympics.
“We want to do it in a team sport, to win a medal so we can be alongside the great athletes who have dominated the world in running,” he said.
“We are definitely going for a medal, and you know it’s sevens — anything can happen.”
Winning a medal will probably mean running at Sonny Bill Williams again. Daunting?
“Not really. It is a sport. Between these four lines anything can happen. Prepare yourself and whatever happens, happens” Ouma says.
But seriously Oscar, do you worry SBW may be look to getting even in Sydney?
Ouma rumbles the shoulders again.
“We play between four lines — whatever happens, happens.” (Daily Telegraph.com/au)
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