NAIROBI, Kenya, June 24 – National 15s head coach Jerome Paarwater, has dropped French based winger Willy Ambaka in the 26-man squad for their title defence at this weekend’s African Rugby Confederation (CAR) Division 1A Championship cum World Cup qualifiers in Antananaravivo, Madagascar.
Paarwater included five 7s players with veteran Humphrey Kayange, his younger siblings Collins Injera and Michael Agevi joining skipper Andrew Amonde as well as Patrice Agunda in the team that largely comprises of players who featured in the Vodacom Cup.
Ambaka who plies his professional trade for Lyon Olympique was left out of the trip due to injury as Kenya open her campaign against Namibia on Saturday before battling it out with hosts Madagascar four days later.
The team will then wrap up their round robin matches against Zimbabwe July 6 with the winner representing the continent at next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.
“We have named more forwards than backs because of last year’s experience in Madagascar, teams are very tough up front so we basically have few backs because they will do the hard work and we have few players who can play more than one position.
“It was a difficult task for the technical bench to select the squad since everyone was good so we will not have difficulties when we want to replace injured players,” Paarwater declared when naming the squad on Tuesday.
The South African however, tipped Namibia will give them stiff competition since they have played in the World Cup four times unlike them who are yet to reach one.
“Last year when we played Namibia, for 60 minutes we were leading despite not assembling a strong squad like the one we have now, so I’m confident we will pin them down.
“All eyes will be on the two nations, since Namibia plays more direct, they will try to out-scrum us and beat us in the line outs but so long as we have players who can sustain the pressure until the final whistle, we are good to go,” he added.
The coach was confident the exposure and experience picked from the three months participation in South Africa’s Vodacom Cup, will inspire his charges to their first ever World Cup.
“We have the advantage since we enter the competition fully prepared after playing tough opponents in the Vodacom Cup and the test match against Western Province, but for Namibia, they are yet to play Province and the Bulls.
“In terms of depth I’m confident since in the last six months we have done a lot so we are on track since we have worked on our line outs, scrum and set pieces so what’s remaining now is for the boys to get mentally prepared and get the job done,” Paarwater concluded.
Captain Wilson K’Opondo, called upon his team-mates not to underrate any team and instead focus on winning every game.
“Vodacom Cup helped us raise our intensity of the game at international level and that will enable us have a good outing in the qualifiers.
“Namibia and Zimbabwe have been at the World Cup before and Madagascar has a lot of passion since they beat Namibia last year so we cannot rule out any one and that’s what we will try to achieve as we take one match at a time,” the Lunch Bar Quins forward stated.
This is the first time Kenya has come close to qualifying to the global showpiece and Kenya Rugby Union has prepared the team adequately after facilitating a two-month camp in South Africa where the team participated in the prestigious Vodacom Cup before they hosted another South African giants Western Province in an international test match where they lost 32-28 to the visitors.
The team then had a 10-day high altitude training camp in Nanyuki and are set to depart Wednesday under the theme ‘40m plus Amani’ that saw the team dedicate the tournament to the country for piece due to the recent terror attacks.
Kenya squad to Madagascar
Forwards: James Kang’ethe, Joseph Kang’ethe (Total Nondies), Curtis Lilako,Max Adaka, Moses Amusala (KCB), Sammy Warui (Top Fry Nakuru), Wilson Kopondo (C) (Lunch Bar Quins), Oliver Mang’eni (KCB), Ronnie Mwenesi (Total Nondies), Brian Nyikuli (Strathmore Leos), Davis Chenge (Western Bulls), Michael Okombe (Top Fry Nakuru), Andrew Amonde (KCB), Martin Owila (Top Fry Nakuru), Joshua Chisanga (Homeboyz)
Backs: Edwin Achayo, Lyle Asiligwa (Lunch Bar Quins), Kenny Andola (Strathmore Leos), Lavin Asego (Mwamba), Nick Barasa, Patrice Agunda, Dennis Muhanji (Lunch Bar Quins), Humphrey Kayange, Michael Agevi, Collins Injera (Mwamba), Tony Onyango (Strathmore Leos)
Technical Bench: Jerome Paarwater (Head Coach), Charles Ngovi (Assistant Coach), Graham Bentz (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Richard Ochieng (Strength & Conditioning Coach), Felix Ochieng (Performance Analyst), Chris Makachia (Physio), Simiyu Wangila (Team Manager)