NAIROBI, Kenya, July 7 – The national 15s team lock horns with Senegal for the first time in an international when the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) trophy kicks off in Casablanca on Wednesday.With the national sevens team hoarding all the accolades, Mike Otieno’s charges will be feeling the added pressure of emulating the Tusker Safari Sevens champions by posting an emphatic victory against the West Africans.
“We are not taking them lightly. There’s little we know about this side apart from the fact that they have a few French based players so we will be treating this match like a final,” said Otieno after naming the team last week.
The views of the former Kenya fullback is an indication of his team’s poor away form in recent years.
Kenya is currently ranked 39 on the International Rugby Board (IRB) standings while Senegal are ranked 67th.
Otieno has opted for a settled and experienced side with a sprinkling of national sevens players who should add plenty of pace and flair to the side.
With seasoned campaigners like Daniel Kiptoo, Antony Ogot and Mike Aung in the engine room, Kenya is expected to utilize their forwards to drive up the middle to create space for their fleet footed backs.
Kiptoo is likely to start alongside his long time Kenya Harlequin club mates Vincent Ongera and Joel Nganga.
The trio have been at the forefront of Quins’ battles for the most part of the last decade culminating in the Ngong road side securing the last year’s Kenya Cup title and also proved crucial in retaining the Elgon Cup.
Ben Nyambu is favourite to start in the backrow alongside Impala’s Paul Oimbo and veteran Antony Ogot who also serves as an additional option in the line out.
Gray Cullen who had a storming Bamburi Super Series could come off the bench and impose his physicality at the set piece and possibly wear down the Senegalese.
Gibson Weru and Nato Simiyu are favourites to form the halfback axis with Kenya under 20 star Patrice Agunda and Innocent Simiyu occupying the centre channel.
The winner of this match will take on either hosts Morocco or Cameroon who play on the same day.