NAIROBI, Kenya, April 16 – It all comes down to this.
Eighty minutes to determine who between Kenya Harlequins and Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) will be crowned the first Kenya Cup champions of the decade.
Once again, the Rugby Football Union of East Africa (RFUEA) grounds will be the stage for what promises to be an intriguing piece of theatre full of subplots.
The build up to the encounter has a test match feel to it with both sides full of international players making the final an unofficial trial for the national fifteens team.
It also pits the national coaching staff against each other with head coach Michael Otieno steering KCB towards a fourth title in five years against his assistamt Edward Kinyany who hopes to bring the trophy back to Quins’ trophy cabinet.
Quins came through a morale boosting 25-16 win over 2009 champions Impala while the the bankers overcame an out of sorts Nakuru team 20-10.
“For us, last week’s semi final was a less pressure game for us. It was easy for us to control Nakuru because they had some glaring weaknesses in the set pieces,” said KCB coach Michael Otieno.
The former Kenya fullback believes his side and Quins are evenly matched in the forwards but is wary of the threat posed by the opposing quick silver backs.
“If you look at that Quins backline its full of youngster who shift that ball around like mad. There strong in the forwards as well and they have the experience to use those strengths to their advantage,” said Otieno.
The three time champions have suffered a huge blow ahead of the game with Jotham Yahuma ruled out with an ankle injury.
“Jotham sprained his ankle in training on Tuesday which is a big blow for us and he will be replaced by Collins Kimani,” said Otieno.
Kimani’s partnership with veteran scrum half will be crucial if the banker’s attack is to get over the gain line on a regular basis.
On his outside, he has strong runners in Fabian Olando and Andrew Amonde while Calvin Biko will be lurking out wide.
A lot has said about the battle upfront but it’s the battle of the backrow which will dictate where the trophy will end up.
Ken Isindu is expected to pick up where he left off against Nakuru. The national under 20 backrow was highly effective as second phase ball carrier as his try last week showed and he will be asking questions of Quins’ defence at the edge of the breakdown.
Alongside Isindu will be Anthony Ogot and Xavier Makuba who will be up against David Mogere, Jeff Ojwach and Leslie Libasia.
Danile Kiptoo, Vincent Ongera and Joel Nganga have a tough battle against KCB skipper Edwin Alubaka amd Frankline Amiani at the coalface of the scrum.
The work of the former Mangu front row will be crucial if Quins is to get quick ball to the likes of Patrice Agunda, Victor Sudi and Peter Abuoga out wide.