NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – Retired Namibia rugby legend Jacques Burger believes Kenya 15s has a realistic chance of qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup after coming so close three years ago.
The Simbas nearly made history in 2014 when they needed just one point from their last match against Zimbabwe to qualify for their first ever World Cup, but unfortunately they lost 27-10 to blow away their chance of making it to rugby’s biggest festival that was hosted in England in 2015.
However, the team under the tutelage of South African Jerome Paawarter has made drastic improvement in the past three years, reclaiming the Elgon Cup as well as winning test matches against Portugal, Spain and Hong Kong to be ranked 24th in the world.
It’s from these great strides that Burger, who is in Kenya to promote rugby development, tipped the Simbas to go one better and book the World Cup slot when the Africa qualifiers will be held in June.
“I watched the qualifying tournament online where Kenya was butchered by Zimbabwe despite being so close to go the World Cup, I was throwing things around the house because I was convinced Kenya was going to the World Cup but it turned out that we (Namibia) went to the World Cup,” Burger, who captained Namibia to the 2007 World Cup, told Capital FM’s Saturday Music and Sports Show presenters.
“I felt sorry for them (Kenya) to come so close and wait another four years before they can qualify. I think they do have the chance to qualify but the most important thing is that they get their structures right,” Burger who featured for England giants Saracens added.
“The competitiveness of rugby in Africa is growing to make the continent better, so if Kenya and Namibia plays well and other countries come along we will give Europe teams a run for their money. Obviously I hope Namibia goes to the World Cup but I think Kenya has a realistic chance of making it because they have really good players and if everything goes right they definitely have a chance.”
Kenya has started early preparations for 2017 assignments, naming a provisional squad of 60 players who have started training with eyes focused on defending Elgon Cup and reclaiming Africa Cup but main aim will be to qualify for the World Cup.
Kenya kicks off the qualifiers against Uganda June 24, 2018 in Nairobi before hosting Tunisia July 8. They will then host Senegal July 15 before starting the away matches July 22 against Zimbabwe.
The Simbas will finish the qualifiers against 2015 Rugby World Cup participants and African defending champions Namibia July 29 away in Windhoek.
Only two teams will represent Africa in the Japan global showdown with 14 teams competing for one direct qualification spot into the final tournament, and one spot in the Repechage tournament.
Twelve teams including hosts Japan have already qualified for the 2019 Rugby World Cup by virtue of finishing in the top 3 in their respective pools during the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
Kenya Simbas Rugby World Cup qualifiers fixtures
Kenya vs Uganda -June 24
Kenya vs Tunisia -July 8
Kenya vs Senegal -July 15
Zimbabwe vs Kenya -July 22
Namibia vs Kenya -July 29